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(July 29, 2021) – On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance for mask use indoors considering new findings surrounding the highly transmissible COVID Delta variant.
The CDC recommends, to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, that vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in public when in an area of substantial or high transmission. According to the CDC, these areas of high transmission are those with more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days, or more than 8 percent of tests are positive for infection over that period. At present, San Miguel County falls in this range of high transmission. As schools prepare for the return to in-person learning this fall, the CDC’s health officials now recommend universal masking, regardless of vaccination status and community transmission rates, and additional precautions for staff, students, and visitors. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the latest validated information shows that vaccines are safe and still very effective against preventing COVID infections. More importantly, vaccines are effective at preventing the worst outcomes for those who do get infected, even those infected with the Delta variant. CDPHE has requested a briefing from the CDC surrounding the science behind their guidance changes in advance of incorporating all the recommendations in the state’s public health order. San Miguel County Public Health is working closely with the state regarding the updated guidance and CDPHE’s response. Although there will be no policy changes from the county level at this time, Public Health strongly supports the call to action from the CDC. As the county continues to see a local increase in positivity and incidence rates, breakthrough cases are occurring more frequently than in weeks past. Wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces, especially during this period of high transmission, is one of the most effective tools to decrease the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 regardless of vaccination status. “We need to reinvigorate our sense of personal responsibility to our community,” said Public Health Director Grace Franklin. “The new findings surrounding the Delta variant that led to these changes from the CDC are evident. We must revisit our behavior, especially those that are unvaccinated. With summer activities and social engagements continuing, we must step up so our kids can go back to school, businesses may stay open, families and at-risk populations are protected and our return to normalcy may stay on track.”