Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) NEW Guidelines: Masks Are Back. And COVID Vaccine Mandates are coming.
1. The Delta Variant
2. Too many unvaccinated
More than 339 million doses of the Covid vaccine have been administered across the US. So far, about 2/3rds of eligible Americans have received the vaccine. Eleven states have yet to vaccinate at least 40% of their residents.
The Delta variant.
It now makes up more than 80% of COVID cases in the US. Overall, COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are going up. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services data, hospitalizations have increased for about three weeks, rising nearly 37% over the past week. This happens when we don’t have enough people getting vaccinated; we fail to reach herd immunity. Now we have the more contagious and scarier delta variant going around.
To prevent further spread of the Delta covid variant, the CDC updated its mask guidance Today to recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors if they’re in a region with “substantial” or “high” transmission of Covid, which is about 2/3rds of the country.
COVID Vaccine Mandates
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “In recent days, I have seen new scientific data from recent outbreak investigations showing that the Delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that cause Covid. This new science is problematic and, unfortunately, warrants an update to our recommendations. This is not a decision that we or CDC has made lightly.”
So this recommendation is based on new yet to be published data — showing that vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant can have as much virus in their nose as unvaccinated people. Overall, vaccinated people still play a small role in transmission, and breakthrough infections remain rare. Remember, the vaccine is excellent at preventing severe COVID. With these mRNA vaccines, they are 95% effective at preventing SEVERE covid. And with the delta variant, it’s slightly less than that but pretty close.
The new guidance from the CDC also recommends that fully vaccinated people be tested 3-5 days after possible or known exposure and continue to wear a mask when in indoor public settings for the next 14 days or until a negative test result.
Also, all people at a school, like staff, teachers, students, and visitors — should all wear a mask, regardless of vaccinations status. And the new mask guidance is frustrating because if everyone got the vaccine, we wouldn’t be in this situation. And that’s why the vaccine mandates are coming. Americans who refuse vaccinations are endangering not only themselves but those who can’t get the vaccine, like children.
And they are also endangering some people who did get the vaccine, like the 9 million immunocompromised Americans. Blood tests show that the vaccine does not mount an antibody response against the virus for some immunocompromised people. That’s sometimes what happens when people take medicine to suppress their immune system – for example, when someone is undergoing chemotherapy or a kidney transplant.
This study just published by Johns Hopkins researchers found that vaccinated immunocompromised people are almost 500 times more likely to be hospitalized or die of Covid than non-immunocompromised people who’ve been vaccinated.
The hope was that herd immunity would protect them. It doesn’t look like that’s happening. So COVID vaccine mandates are coming. More than 50 health and medical groups — including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association — issued a joint statement calling for all health care and long-term care employers to mandate employees be vaccinated.
President Biden will announce this Thursday a requirement that all federal employees and contractors be vaccinated against Covid or be required to submit to regular testing and mitigation requirements. The vaccines have received EUA but are yet to receive full FDA approval because it takes time. But you can expect that to happen by the fall. Based on the trials and real-world data so far, we know that the vaccines are overall very safe. Once there is full FDA approval, expect mass mandates throughout the country.
Doctor Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine