PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As United States health leaders on Tuesday pointed to a shift in mask wearing recommendations, the change brought up another question: What does it mean for us locally?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed new scientific findings on the COVID-19 delta variant along with new mask wearing guidelines. Right now, the delta variant, a mutated version of the original COVID-19 virus, accounts for 83% of new cases across the U.S.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky addressed the nation Tuesday, saying the variant is more contagious than the original strain that first took hold of the globe in 2019. New research shows the variant can be spread by those who are fully vaccinated.
Health leaders are asking vaccinated people in areas where the infection is surging to take a step back and once again wear a mask inside.
The announcement comes after weeks of progress and research.
“The data that we have right now is different. We have a country that is full of delta,” Walensky explained.
The latest CDC dashboard data shows Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Newport News and Chesapeake to be at high risk for community spread. Hampton is at substantial risk and Norfolk is at moderate. In North Carolina, those in the Outer Banks’ Dare County are at high risk and Pasquotank County is moderate.
“At an individual level, we believe everybody should be wearing a mask in those areas with substantial and high transmission,” Walensky stated.
Virginia has yet to release information on any new or updated coronavirus restrictions in response to the CDC’s updated guidance.
A Virginia Department of Health spokesperson told 10 On Your Side the VDH will review the science and information before sharing guidance on how to move forward.
The announcement comes two days after Virginia’s mandatory mask mandate in schools expired and districts were left to decide their own mask policies.
“We know that our 12- to 17-year-olds right now have only about 30% coverage of being fully vaccinated,” Walensky said Tuesday.
The CDC is now urging all students and staff in K-12 schools across the country to wear a mask this fall regardless of vaccination status.