Parts of New York and New Jersey are among the high risk areas, and on Wednesday, Governor Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli strongly recommended that both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents wear masks in indoor settings when there is increased risk.
Examples of such situations include:
--Crowded indoor settings
--Indoor settings involving activities with close contact with others who may not be fully vaccinated
--Indoor settings where the vaccine status of other individuals in the setting is unknown
--Where an individual is immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease
"Our metrics are trending in the wrong direction, and new data suggests the Delta variant is more transmissible even among vaccinated individuals, which is why we are making this strong recommendation," Murphy and Persichilli said in a joint statement. "Fortunately, our numbers are a fraction of those in many other states, most of which have significantly lower vaccination rates. Should our numbers reach those levels, we reserve the right to take more drastic action, including a statewide mask mandate. We have crushed this virus repeatedly like no other state in the nation, and we are proud to boast among the country's highest vaccination rates. But at this point, given where our metrics are now, we feel the best course of action is to strongly encourage every New Jerseyan, and every visitor to our state, to take personal responsibility and mask up indoors when prudent. And we equally encourage every unvaccinated resident or visitor to get vaccinated. The vaccines are proven safe and highly effective, and are the surest way we can end this pandemic."
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state is taking the guidance into consideration, but no new mandates are expected at the current time.
"The CDC announced new guidance yesterday, and they have different colors for transmission rates...and special precautions for these orange and red zones," Cuomo said. "The state will do a full review of CDC guidance. We are talking to federal officials and international health experts. This is happening in other places, learn from that experience. The CDC guidance should be carefully reviewed. Local governments in those areas should carefully consider the CDC guidance, and the basic guidance comes down to what we know: Get the vaccine, and the precautions are important. Take the mask precaution. It's not the hardest thing to do. But the Delta variant is deja vu all over again."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the guidance "complicated" and said the city will have more in a few days.
The CDC shift reflects new evidence that those who are vaccinated can spread the highly contagious Delta variant to the unvaccinated. In New Hyde Park in Nassau County, just 11.5% of residents are fully vaccinated.
"People say I'm tired, I'm done with it, I don't want to wear it," said Dr. Ashish Jha, of Brown University. "Well, get vaccinated. And then we can all take the mask off. Those persons who do not get vaccinated are putting everyone else at risk. With the delta variant, high levels of virus means people can transmit. People wearing a mask indoors makes sense in those high transmission areas."
The CDC is also walking back its guidance for schools, with health officials now saying everyone -- regardless of vaccination status -- should wear masks when in-person school resumes in the fall.
New York City Schools had always said kids would return with masks on, and on Wednesday, de Blasio chose to focus on vaccinations instead of masks.
He announced a new Incentive starting Friday, in which anyone who gets a first dose of the COVID vaccine at any city-run site will get $100.
"We will say we are really glad that you got vaccinated for yourself, for your family, for your community, and here's $100, thank you for doing the right thing," he said. "And not only do you get the $100, you then qualify to be able to do everything else that is wonderful in this city, including the amazing concerts coming up."
Despite people being vaccinated and still getting COVID, so-called breakthrough infections, more than 97% of the people in the hospital with COVID across the country are unvaccinated.
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