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CDC Screwed Up: Don’t Throw Away the Masks

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It was a little suspect when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people in indoor public spaces. The decision is now proving to be a wrong turn in the fight against the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, fully vaccinated people are pretty well protected against serious illness if they contract breakthrough infections, which is happening more commonly now with the soaring delta variant cases. Still, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are showing good results by keeping most people out of the hospital and morgue. That’s great.

The problem is that less than 55 percent of the eligible population — aged 12 and older — is fully vaccinated, according to CDC data, and not all unvaccinated people are voluntarily complying with the guidance to continue masking in places like grocery stores. It turns out using an honor system in a pandemic that’s been weirdly politicized is not the best way to keep people healthy.

On average, daily case counts are starting to slowly tick back up. The overall increase in California is fairly moderate, but jumps are more evident in counties where vaccination rates are low. Humboldt, Modoc, Lassen, Yuba, Sierra and Imperial counties are reporting “substantial” community virus transmission, as reflected in CDC data updated Saturday. 

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Johns Hopkins University COVID tracking shows surges popping up around the country with about 20 states on the wrong end of the curve — Nevada, Arkansas and Oklahoma are among the worst, for now.  

U.S. map by county of COVID-19 virus transmission with data through Saturday, June 26, 2021. Red indicates high community transmission where blue counties are reporting low transmission. (Map courtesy of CDC)

Areas with the lowest vaccination rates are obviously most vulnerable to the new variant, which health experts believe could take over in the U.S. as the dominant strain within about two weeks. With a much higher transmission rate than what we experienced with the original Alpha strain, unvaccinated people over the age of 50 and even, to a lesser degree, fully vaccinated people with otherwise weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of illness. 

The fact is President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of the population vaccinated by July 4 is just not going to happen. The vast majority of people willing to get the shot already have and we’re going – the demand has been in steady decline and health officials are trying to get creative, some going door-to-door offering vaccinations on the spot. The CDC’s guidance lifting indoor mask mandates appears to have been fueled more by wishful thinking than reality.

Los Angeles County health officials are now urging all people to wear masks in indoor public spaces, and it’s likely other counties will soon follow suit. Nobody at this point is advocating for lockdowns in the U.S., but keeping it that way may require wearing masks for a while. We can only hope the CDC wakes up on the matter and revises the guideline before it’s too late. 

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.

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