After 18 months of wearing masks to protect against the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Americans are increasingly going about their lives barefaced.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday that fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks in public, in anticipation of the coming of COVID-19’s delta variant and its delta plus offspring, which are more virulent and contagious strains of the virus.
WHO’s recommendation comes after the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said in late May that fully vaccinated Americans can discontinue mask-wearing. But though COVID-19 cases fell slightly last week in the United States (by 4.4% according to the CDC), Delta is wreaking havoc in more than 90 countries, and is becoming the dominant variant of the disease around the globe, with delta plus (potentially an even more contagious variant of a variant) waiting in the wings.
“Vaccine alone won’t stop community transmission,” said Dr. Mariângela Simão, WHO’s assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, on Friday in a news brief, according to CNBC. “People need to continue to use masks consistently.”
Said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, in a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation virtual event last week: “This first generation of vaccines may not get us to full disease eradication, unless we get to extremely high vaccination coverages and continue to match that with surveillance, testing, quarantine, isolation.… It’s not going to be [eliminated] by vaccination alone.” He added, “If you have large pockets of under-vaccinated people, they can sustain transmission forever.”
No one welcomes the news that mask-wearing should continue. It’s depressing on every level. But brick-and-mortar retailers, who interface with the public, need to closely track the delta variant’s spread—and stay abreast of the CDC’s and WHO’s mask mandates—to keep themselves, their employees, and their customers safe.
Here’s more to know about the delta variants:
• Last week the CDC said the delta variant is predicted to increase in all regions and will account for more than 45% of all COVID-19 cases in several regions of the United States.
• Both variants are highly contagious and delta is classified as a “variant of concern” by the CDC. The deltas have a so-called fitness advantage on the original COVID-19 virus—meaning they spread faster, making them more deadly.
• Infection of both variants is suppressed by the usual COVID-19 precautions: social distancing, remaining in well-ventilated and outdoor areas, and wearing masks.
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