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Fauci: CDC Masking Guidance Unchanged in Face of Delta Coronavirus Variant

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 7/1/2021 Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder
a man wearing a suit and tie: WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 18: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adjusts a face mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill on March 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images) © (Susan Walsh/Getty Images) WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 18: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adjusts a face mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill on March 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images)

Mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "remains unchanged" as the delta variant is poised to become the main coronavirus strain circulating in the U.S., leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Thursday.

The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors in most settings. But the World Health Organization and at least one county in the U.S. recommend otherwise as the highly contagious variant spreads.

The World Health Organization last week suggested that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks as variants circulate.

"Vaccine alone won't stop the community transmission," Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant-director general for access to medicines and health products, said at a press conference. "People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces – hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette ... the physical distance, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you're vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing."

And at least one jurisdiction in the U.S. is heeding WHO's suggestion. Officials in Los Angeles County this week "strongly" recommended everyone wear masks in indoor public places regardless of their vaccination status due to the spread of the delta variant.

But Fauci defended the federal government's stance on masks for the fully vaccinated at a press briefing on Thursday, citing a high vaccination rate in the U.S. when compared to global vaccination rates.


Video: Mixed messages from WHO, CDC on mask-wearing as Delta variant spreads (FOX News)

"The WHO is responsible for the planet as a whole," Fauci said. "It's different in the world in general from here in the United States."

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that the delta variant now makes up about 25% of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. She said she expects it to become the dominant strain in the coming weeks.

Walensky said that the daily average of new coronavirus cases is up 10% from last week and warned that the delta variant could spread in unvaccinated populations.

"Looking state by state and county by county, it is clear that communities where people remain unvaccinated are communities that remain vulnerable," she said, adding that some communities are seeing nearly half their new cases coming from the delta variant.

About 1,000 counties in the U.S. have vaccination coverage rates of under 30%, according to Walensky. Some of these areas are already seeing more coronavirus transmission.

"Any suffering or death from COVID-19 is tragic," Walensky said. "With vaccines available across the country, the suffering and loss we are now seeing is nearly entirely avoidable."

Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said that the Biden administration is mobilizing COVID-19 surge response teams to help respond to hotspots among unvaccinated populations.

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