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Wear masks in public, vaccinated Americans told

2021-07-28 HKT 08:36
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  • Pupils at a school in New York don masks for a discussion about Covid-19. Photo: AP
    Pupils at a school in New York don masks for a discussion about Covid-19. Photo: AP
Americans fully vaccinated against Covid-19 should go back to wearing masks in indoor public places in regions where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, US health authorities said on Tuesday.

In a toughening of guidance issued earlier this month, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommended all pupils, teachers and staff at schools for kindergarten up to 12th grade wear masks regardless of whether they were vaccinated.

US coronavirus cases have been rising due to the highly contagious Delta variant, which emerged in India but has quickly spread and now accounts for more than 80 percent of US coronavirus cases.

US President Joe Biden said that increased vaccination and mask wearing would help the United States avoid the pandemic lockdowns, shutdowns and school closures that the country faced in 2020. “We are not going back to that,” Biden said.

The CDC said that 63.4 percent of US counties had transmission rates high enough to warrant indoor masking and should immediately resume the policy. Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco meet the transmission criteria, as does the entire state of Florida, but Chicago and Detroit do not.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten praised the new CDC mask guidance in a statement, calling it "a necessary precaution until children under 12 can receive a COVID vaccine and more Americans over 12 get vaccinated."

The CDC's previous guidance for schools only called for unvaccinated students to wear masks.

However, the new CDC recommendations are not binding and many Americans, especially in Republican-leaning states, may choose not to follow them. At least eight states bar schools from requiring masks.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, rejected the CDC guidance. "Arizona does not allow mask mandates ...,” he said in a statement. "We’ve passed all of this into law, and it will not change." (Reuters)