The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will once again recommend masks for vaccinated Americans under certain circumstances, even though the odds of a vaccinated person transmitting COVID-19 to someone else remain exceedingly low.
The new guidance, issued by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday afternoon, also instructs school districts to require masks of all students, teachers, and staff members when classes resume in the fall.
Walensky said these decisions were made because the delta variant of COVID-19 is somewhat more transmissible than the other strains.
"Information from other states and countries shows that in rare cases some vaccinated people may be contagious and spread the virus to others," said Walensky. "This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations."
Unsurprisingly, this new recommendation is excessively cautious to the point of absurdity. Note that the vaccines still hold up remarkably well against the delta variant in terms of preventing severe disease and death. They also substantially reduce infection rates and transmissibility. But what the CDC has found is that when rare, breakthrough infections do occur, delta's viral load is high enough that a vaccinated person could potentially transmit the virus—probably not to another vaccinated person (who is extremely protected, in any case), but to an unvaccinated person.
The government is essentially saying that vaccinated people must resume indoor mask-wearing, not because the delta variant poses any danger to them or their vaccinated friends and family members, but because the minority of the country that stubbornly refuses to get vaccinated is at risk. (Note as well that the most at-risk group, senior citizens, have extremely high vaccination rates; the least vaccinated group, young children, are exceedingly unlikely to suffer death from COVID-19.)
It is hard to see how this new guidance is fair to the vaccinated, who have thus far done everything that was asked of them. Masks and other social distancing requirements were supposed to be temporary measures—remember "two weeks to slow the spread"?—until the vaccines were available. Federal health bureaucrats cannot perpetually deprive people of their rights in the name of public health.
The cure for the pandemic is here, and if people won't take advantage of it in order to keep themselves safe, at some point—like, now—that's on them, not the already vaccinated.