SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 27, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Dr. Angela Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, issued a statement Tuesday after
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated Americans in high-transmission areas again start wearing masks indoors.
The decision was made based on new scientific data on how the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads.
Dunn said in the statement: “CDC’s announcement today echoes concerns I shared last week that this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and that widespread vaccination remains our most effective defense — including against the Delta variant.
“My focus is on providing and encouraging vaccination, and on protecting the children in our community who are too young to be vaccinated. We know the vaccine works –particularly in preventing hospitalization and death — but not all of our populations have reached a high enough level of vaccination to have herd immunity and provide protection throughout the community.
“As the more contagious Delta variant spreads in Utah, it’s important to implement multiple layers of prevention. Even though I am fully vaccinated, because Salt Lake County is currently experiencing substantial transmission, I will be following the CDC’s recommendation to mask when indoors in public settings because I don’t know who around me is unvaccinated.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a press briefing Tuesday the Delta variant — which is now the dominant COVID-19 variant in the United States — “behaves uniquely differently” compared to earlier strains.
“The Delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us,” she said.
In “rare” cases in which a fully vaccinated person is infected with the variant, they may be able to spread the virus, she added. To prevent that spread, the CDC updated its guidelines to encourage fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in indoor public spaces in areas of high transmission of COVID-19.
Walensky also said anyone inside a K-12 school — students, teachers, administrators and visitors — should wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.
The move is a step back for the CDC after the agency said in May that vaccinated Americans no longer needed to wear masks indoors.
Walensky said the masking announcement was “not a decision that we… made lightly.”
“This weighs heavily on me 18 months into this pandemic,” she said, adding that people are tired, frustrated and battling mental health challenges.
“I know in the context of all that, it is not a welcome piece of news that masking is going to be a part of life for people who are already fully vaccinated.”
According to the latest data from the CDC, almost half of all counties in the United States, including most of Utah, are now listed as a “high” risk area for coronavirus transmission. That share is almost 20% higher than it was seven days ago.
Another 17% of U.S. counties are listed as having a substantial transmission risk.
State health officials and the CDC have said that 95% of COVID-19 patients who are being hospitalized were not vaccinated. Despite the greater spread of the Delta variant, even among the vaccinated, Walensky said vaccines reduce symptomatic cases of the Delta variant by seven-fold and hospitalizations by 20-fold.
For the latest COVID-19 numbers in Utah, click here.