People wear masks as they pass through a pedestrian subway in New York City, New York, the US, July 26 2021. Picture: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY
People wear masks as they pass through a pedestrian subway in New York City, New York, the US, July 26 2021. Picture: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY

US health officials will return to tighter guidelines for the use of masks, advising that fully vaccinated individuals wear them in public indoor settings in places where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly as part of a response to the rise of the Delta variant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will recommend that teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools (kindergarten to 12th grade) wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, according to a preview of guidance to be released later on Tuesday. Children should return to full-time, in-person learning in autumn with prevention strategies in place.

Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, has warned that the US is moving in the wrong direction in battling the spread of a new Covid-19 wave spurred by the Delta variant.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected late on Tuesday to discuss breakthrough infections in vaccinated people and using masks to prevent further outbreaks in areas of substantial and high transmission.

A growing number of public-health experts have urged the agency to recommend that even fully vaccinated people wear face masks in public amid the resurgence of cases fed by the Delta variant. Fauci told CNN on Sunday that new US recommendations on masking were under active consideration.

Some places, such as Los Angeles county, have already revived mask mandates for public indoor places regardless of vaccine status. Former surgeon-general Jerome Adams said the CDC acted prematurely in May when it announced that fully vaccinated Americans would no longer need to wear face coverings in most situations.

“The execution was poor, and the results speak for themselves,” Adams, said via e-mail. “Low mask usage, slowed vaccination rates and exploding cases.”

The Delta variant has prompted many countries to rethink their public-health strategies against Covid-19. However, as recently as July 22 Walensky said the agency was sticking with its recommendations that fully vaccinated people don’t usually need masks, while allowing that wearing one may have some advantages.

Covid-19 fatalities in the US surged 48% over the past week to a daily average of 239 and hospitalisations are also on the rise. The CDC says the Delta variant now makes up 83% of all sequenced Covid-19 cases in the US, up from 50% at the beginning of July. Areas of the country with limited vaccination coverage are allowing the  spread of the highly transmissible variant.

CNN reported the news earlier Tuesday.

Bloomberg News More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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