A CLOSER LOOK: CDC reverses COVID-19 mask guidelines due to Delta variant spread

A Closer Look

Dr. Walensky: "Illnesses and deaths could have been avoided with vaccinations."

Getty Images.

ATLANTA (KNWA/KFTA) — The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in certain settings.

The new CDC guidance is for those who live in areas where there is a high, or substantial, transmission of COVID-19 and for everyone in K-12 schools.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky made the announcement during a Tuesday afternoon briefing, July 27. The decision was based on the rampant spread of the Delta variant based on new data. The Delta variant behaves uniquely different than past strains, “and it’s been indicated [on rare occasions] if you are vaccinated you can be infected and carry it to an unvaccinated person,” said Dr. Walensky.

The bottom line: the vaccine works, but you can still carry the virus and transmit it to others.

Another concern is should COVID-19 mutate. “The next mutation, a few away, could date the vaccine,” said Dr. Walensky.

COVID-19 is still, “the pandemic of the unvaccinated,” the CDC director said.

Getty Images.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) vaccine information is based on peer-reviewed science.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) reported, “the R naught of the Delta variant is 6 compared to an R naught of 2.7 of COVID-19 Alpha variant, which was considered very high. What this means is that a person infected with the Delta variant can infect, on average, six additional people.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday, July 26, became the first major federal agency to require health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines.

ARKANSAS

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) is hosting four Community COVID Conversations this week — Mountain Home, Dumas, Heber Springs, and Siloam Springs. The governor is addressing COVID misinformation or disinformation.

Misinformation vs. Disinformation — there is a difference.

Misinformation: incorrect or misleading information that is presented as fact regardless of an intent to deceive.

Disinformation: a type of false information that is deliberately intended to deceive or mislead. 

“It’s critical we continue to have these discussions around Arkansas to ensure people have the facts and science behind these vaccines,” said the governor.

Late Tuesday, Governor Hutchinson released a statement after meeting with House Speaker and Senate president pro tempore discussing the possibility of a General Assembly Special Session about school masks. “I will be evaluating options for legislative changes to Act 1002 that will give our schools more local control on meeting the health needs of the students as we enter a new school year in the face of the Delta variant.  I will not make a decision on a special session until legislative leadership has an opportunity to discuss options further with their members.”

Last week, the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) requested a special legislative session to repeal Act 1002, a law that bans mask mandates in the state.

COMMUNITY COVID CONVERSATIONS

On Monday, July 26, Governor Hutchinson was in Mountain Home and spoke at the Shied (prono: shed), located on the Arkansas State University campus. Baxter Regional hospital held a vaccine clinic for anyone in attendance and for walk-ins. There are 35 patients at Baxter Regional hospitalized with COVID-19 and nine are in the ICU, according to the hospital’s president. “Roughly 90% of all patients are unvaccinated,” said Ron Peterson.

Hospitalizations in Arkansas are at their highest level since January — 980. “The increase of 61 hospitalizations on Sunday (July 25) is a blunt indicator that the Delta Variant is more transmissible & increases the likelihood of hospitalizations if you don’t have the vaccine,” Gov. Hutchinson posted on Twitter.

There were 23 additional deaths reported Monday in the following counties, per the Arkansas Department of Health.

  • Crittenden
  • Washington
  • Hot Spring
  • Garland
  • Sharp
  • Pulaski
  • Faulkner
  • Crawford
  • Dallas
  • Independence
  • Baxter
  • Arkansas
  • Cleveland
  • Jefferson
  • Sebastian
  • Newton

NWA hospitals continue to see a significant COVID-19 surge and despite the availability of safe and effective vaccines, the majority of our hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. Today several healthcare professional associations and societies have made a joint statement to advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In this statement, they reference an ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients and our community first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being. Washington Regional is in agreement that vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us. The statement released today is consistent with the actions that our health system took last week.

Washington Regional COVID statement

The Delta variant accounts for more than 83% of new cases nationwide, according to the CDC. About 63% of the country has “significant” or “high transmission” of COVID-19’s Delta variant.

“[Nationally] We are seeing 300 cases per 100,000 people in a seven-day period,” said Dr. Walensky.

The state of Missouri has a high transmission rate and is largely classified as substantial or high. “We are collaborating with the state regarding an outbreak situation,” Dr. Walensky confirmed during the call when asked by a reporter. According to the state’s department of health and senior services, 40.9% are fully vaccinated. Missouri’s population is estimated at 6.1 million as of the 2019 census.

WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE TO CDC NEW GUIDANCE

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the updated CDC guidance about masks is an appropriate decision. “We are still in the midst of a once-in-a-generation pandemic battling an ever-evolving virus,” said Psaki answering a reporter question. “We have said since the beginning of June that the Delta variant had a great deal of transmissibility … was a threat to people who were unvaccinated.” The country is dealing with a different strain than a few months ago. “Their job [CDC] is to look at evolving information, evolving data, an evolving historic pandemic, and provide guidance to the American public,” said Psaki.

During a White House briefing in May, U.S. President Joe Biden said, “the rule is very simple: Get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.  It’s vax’ed or masked.”

But as of today, it’s more like get vax’ed and mask, according to the updated CDC recommendation(s).

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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