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How the Delta Variant Affects Whether You Should Wear a Mask or Not

As infections involving the new Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus continue to increase worldwide, including in the U.S., health experts are again revisiting advice about who should wear masks and when.

On June 28, the Los Angeles County public health department advised all people, including those who are vaccinated, to wear masks in most indoor general settings, based on the fact that nearly half of the virus from cases in the county that were genetically sequenced now belong to the Delta variant. The variant, first identified in India, is far more contagious than previous strains of SARS-CoV-2 and could cause more severe disease.

Then the World Health Organization reaffirmed its advice that vaccinated people continue to wear masks when in public settings as a precaution. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has still not changed its guidance for vaccinated people, last revised in May, stating that fully vaccinated individuals can resume most normal activities without masks. In a broadcast interview, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that vaccines continue to protect against the Delta variant and that it’s more critical for unvaccinated people to wear masks to protect themselves from getting infected. But she did acknowledge that local and state policies could be more stringent because of rising cases of infections with the Delta variant.

That’s the case in L.A. county. Studies show that vaccines provide people with sufficient protection from getting sick with COVID-19 but even vaccinated people can still get infected and experience symptoms, albeit milder and rarely. That’s why Los Angeles health officials issued the recommendation for all people, vaccinated or not, to wear masks indoors in grocery stores.

When not eating, theaters, workplaces, and restaurants since it’s hard to know whether other people in those environments are vaccinated. The advice comes just after the county had relaxed social restrictions and allowed restaurants, retail, and entertainment facilities to open as more people were vaccinated.

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