Mask requirements apply in Provincetown, MA on August 6, 2021.
Craig F. Walker | Boston Globe | Getty Images
The Delta-Covid variant has spread so quickly in the US that most counties in the country now meet CDC guidelines that recommend wearing masks indoors – whether they are vaccinated or not.
“We continue to see increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the country. And now over 90% of counties in the United States are experiencing significant or high transmission,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters at a briefing Thursday. “As we said earlier, by far the most vulnerable people remain who have not yet been vaccinated.”
The CDC updated its mask guidelines on July 27 to recommend indoor masks in areas of the United States where community transmission was considered high or significant. Most of the counties with high transmission rates were in the southern United States, but in two weeks the proliferation of the highly transmittable delta variant expanded to most counties across the country.
The CDC recorded 132,384 new cases of Covid on Wednesday and hit a seven-day average of about 113,000 cases per day, up nearly 24% from the previous week, it said. Hospital admissions also rose about 31% in the previous week to about 9,700 per day.
Unvaccinated Americans make up the overwhelming majority of hospital admissions and deaths across the country, she said.
Several large institutions in the public and private sectors have mandated vaccines or require weekly Covid tests to prevent the virus from spreading further. President Joe Biden recently met with private sector leaders to promote vaccine or testing mandates.
“Immunization regulations are growing in importance across the country and already covering tens of millions of workers, educators, students and healthcare providers,” said Jeffrey Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, at the meeting. “You will help keep communities safe and stop the virus from spreading.”
Several cities with high vaccination rates have also mandated vaccinations for indoor activities in places like restaurants, bars, and gyms to prevent further spread of the Delta variant. New York City requires at least one dose of indoor activity vaccine, and San Francisco requires full vaccination with a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine. According to Zients, around 700 colleges and universities across the country have introduced vaccination mandates.
In the hardest hit states, vaccination rates are rising as residents take precautions against the spread of the Delta variant, he said. The average number of daily shots tripled in the past month in Arkansas and quadrupled in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, Zients said.
The CDC on Wednesday also stepped up its vaccination recommendations for pregnant women, reiterating that the vaccine is safe for those who are pregnant or planning to conceive. Walensky cited new data that “found no safety concerns for pregnant people who are vaccinated late in pregnancy or for their babies,” she said.
“To end this pandemic, every American must do their part. So if you are not vaccinated, please get your vaccination … it has never been more important, ”said Zients.