NEW YORK - Officials in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are reviewing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's course correction on its guidance for wearing masks before issuing any new mandates — if any.
The CDC announced on Tuesday that even if you're vaccinated you should go back to wearing a mask indoors in parts of the country where the delta variant is fueling surges in infections. The CDC also recommended that all teachers, staff, students, and visitors at schools nationwide — regardless of vaccination status — wear masks indoors.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said the agency made these recommendations based on unpublished new data — from more than 100 samples from several states and one other country — about the delta variant's ability to spread among vaccinated people. With the delta variant, the level of virus in infected vaccinated people is "indistinguishable" from the level of virus in the noses and throats of unvaccinated people, Walensky said. In other words, vaccinated people "have the potential to spread that virus to others," she said.
In a statement, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his administration is reviewing the new CDC guidance "in consultation with federal and state health experts."
"New Yorkers beat back COVID before — going from the highest positivity rate on the globe to one of the lowest — by staying smart, following the science, and having each other's backs, and that's exactly what we'll keep doing in this next phase of the pandemic," Cuomo said.
Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey is also reviewing the guidance, a spokesperson said.
"Governor Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Health will review the new CDC guidance on masking requirements in response to the spread of the Delta variant," deputy press secretary Alexandra Altman wrote in an email to FOX 5 NY. "Governor Murphy continues to encourage all individuals ages 12 and up to receive the free and effective COVID-19 vaccination to reduce the spread of the virus."
A spokesman for the governor of Connecticut said in a statement that Gov. Ned Lamont and public health officials are reviewing the CDC guidance and will have "additional updates in the coming days."
The latest guidance from the CDC recommends that everyone wear masks in public indoor spaces in counties that have substantial or high transmission of COVID-19. Currently, both Hartford County and New London County are close to the threshold described by the CDC for universal masking," Communications Director Max Reiss said in the statement. "Connecticut has been a national leader when it comes to testing, mitigation strategies, and vaccine uptake, and we want to continue that progress to the benefit of our entire state."
FOX 5 NY reached out to Mayor Bill de Blasio's office for comment but has not heard back yet.
President Joe Biden said he is considering requiring all federal employees to get vaccinated.
"There is only one thing we know for sure," Biden said. "If those other hundred million people got vaccinated, we'd be in a very different world."
Dr. Suraj Saggar, the chief of infectious disease at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, told FOX 5 NY that he understands that Americans are tired of wearing masks.
"I know people are sick and tired of mask mandates, of wearing masks. They want to get back to normal life. There's certain mental challenges and other emotional challenges associated with this pandemic. We're all very well aware of that," Saggar said. "But the evolution of this is such that it's in real-time. So our recommendations, our way of coping with this pandemic, will constantly shift as information comes in."
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, said he applauds his state for getting so many people vaccinated but it is still not enough.
"Vaccines are safe — they are urgently needed as this delta virus continues," Booker said. "The way we undermine this: wear a mask, take the responsible steps to protect yourself, your families, and those in your community."
With The Associated Press and FOX 5 NY reports.