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Is the spread of the delta variant going to force us back to mask mandates?

Mask mandates sign in Grand Central Station; will the delta variant continue these requirements?
Photo via Billie Grace Ward/Flickr (Public Domain)

Just under 50% of the United States’ population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and, in turn, many states have shed mask mandates and social distancing measures in a slow journey toward post-pandemic life. The rapid spread of the delta variant has some states and businesses reinstating mask mandates, however—even for those who’ve received their vaccine.

Casinos across Nevada are reimposing mask mandates for employees regardless of vaccination status, thanks to the continued spread of the delta variant. Other businesses in Nevada may soon follow suit, as the vaccination rate in the state continues to slow and the cases continue to climb. 

“With the rise in cases and slowing vaccine rates in Clark County, the Health District’s recommendation to wear masks in crowded public settings, including grocery stores, malls, large events, and casinos, is a step to fully utilize the tools we have available to stop the pandemic,” the Southern Nevada Health District’s recommendation reads. 

In Los Angeles County, officials responded to a rise in cases with the announcement that masks will again be required in all indoor spaces. The county was already recommending masks as a “precautionary measure,” according to the Hill, but now requires them in indoor public spaces. 

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is advising the rest of the country to follow suit but recognizes that “these decisions have to be made at the local level.”

“If you have areas of low vaccination and high case rates, then I would say local policymakers might consider whether masking at that point would be something that would be helpful for their community until they scale up their vaccination rates,” she said during a White House press briefing.

Fully vaccinated individuals remain well-protected against COVID-19, as well as the delta variant, but rising cases are prompting concerns across the country. Officials have noted that, while the delta variant poses the most danger to unvaccinated populations, enough exposure can put even the fully vaccinated at risk. 

“Those cumulative exposures will make for more breakthrough infections and particularly for older, more vulnerable populations that could be at risk,” Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said. 

Read more on the delta variant: 

Sources: New York Post, The Hill, CDC


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