US urges vaccinated Americans to wear masks indoors as Delta spreads

CDC recommends vaccinated Americans, as well as students and school staff, wear masks indoors as Delta variant spreads

WASHINGTON: Americans fully vaccinated against Covid-19 should go back to wearing masks in indoor public places in regions where the virus is spreading rapidly, the US health authorities said on Tuesday.

In a toughening of guidance issued earlier this month, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommended that all students, teachers and staff at schools for kindergarten through 12th grade wear masks regardless of whether they were vaccinated.

US cases have been rising because of the highly contagious Delta variant, which emerged in India but now accounts for more than 80 per cent of the cases there.

US President Joe Biden said that increased vaccination and mask wearing would help the country avoid the pandemic lockdowns, shutdowns and school closures that the country faced last year.

"We are not going back to that," Mr Biden said.

The CDC said that 63.4 per cent of US counties had transmission rates high enough to warrant indoor masking and should immediately resume the policy.

Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco meet the transmission criteria, as does the entire state of Florida, but Chicago and Detroit do not.

The new CDC recommendations are not binding and many Americans, especially in Republican-leaning states, may choose not to follow them. At least eight states bar schools from requiring masks.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, rejected the CDC guidance.

"Arizona does not allow mask mandates ..." he said. "We've passed all of this into law, and it will not change."

The United States leads the world in the daily average number of new infections, accounting for one in every nine cases reported worldwide each day.

The seven-day average for new cases has been rising sharply and stands at 57,126, about a quarter of the pandemic peak.

New studies show that fully vaccinated people who become infected carry as much virus as unvaccinated people do, suggesting they may be able to transmit the infection to others, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said.

"We felt it was important for people to understand that they could pass the disease on to someone else," she said. - REUTERS