CDC Changes Mask Guidance

The CDC just recommended that vaccinated individuals begin wearing masks again when indoors which is a bit of a reversal from their recommendation made about two months ago.

I say a “bit” because they state it applies to places with high covid transmission rates, so it’s not exactly universal.

For example, regions like the northeast and upper Midwest are still seeing relatively low infection rates, so I’m guessing masks are not needed indoors in those places per the CDC. But the delta variant has caused notable spikes in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida, so the guidance would apply in those locations.

You can check the transmission rates for very state here.

The CDC also recommends that everyone in grade schools wear masks indoors, “including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.”

While cases are growing rapidly, hospitalizations and deaths are also growing but at lower rates than cases. They are also not anywhere near what they were during peak times. Take a look at the death rates below — it is still extremely low despite the quick rise in cases and it doesn’t mirror the uptick. I know deaths tend to lag but I don’t see any noticeable change in trajectory close to what we see with new cases right now.

Here is a look at the uptick:

What does it mean that there is a sharp uptick in new cases but not deaths? As a non-expert, I’m not sure but it sure does seem like a sign that this surge may not be as serious as prior surges.

What does this mean for masks on planes?

Currently, the federal mask mandate — which applies to trains, planes and airports, buses, and transportation hubs — extends to September 13, 2021.

Some experts are predicting another surge from the delta variant that could peak sometime between September and October, so this could mean another extension of this deadline.

However, it looks like airlines like Southwest are not recommending another extension of the mask mandate. They do state that they will back guidance from the CDC, though.

If the CDC is mostly guided by new cases, I think there’s a good chance we’ll see the federal mask mandate extended — probably announced sometime next month.

But if they are giving more weight to deaths and hospitalizations, the situation may not be so bad.

The problem is that some parts of the country will be much worse than others due to giant disparities in vaccination rates which makes it difficult to apply a federal mandate fairly across the country.

So while I’m hoping for an end to the mask mandates, it seems like that might be a bit further down the road. We’ll see.