UPMC Weighs in on CDC Recommendation for Vaccinated People to Mask Indoors in High-Transmission Areas

By: Kate Irwin

At a press briefing on July 27th, the CDC recommended all people, including those vaccinated, wear masks indoors in areas with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission. Transmission rates can be visually tracked here.

The recommendation follows a surge of COVID-19 cases in areas with low vaccination rates, as well as breakthrough infections – cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated people. These features are important contributors to the virus spread. Rising infections rates are largely due to the Delta variant, which is much more transmissible as earlier strains of the virus based on experience worldwide.

“We always expected that CDC guidance on any type of protective strategies, such as masking and distancing, would change as the conditions in the country and the virus changed,” explained Dr. Donald M. Yealy, chief medical officer at UPMC. “The CDC is saying that in some areas, the amount of virus activity is high enough that we need to tighten our attention and focus. It makes sense to increase our use of masks in these places, especially if you are a vulnerable person or around such people. This is our chance to put this pandemic in the rearview mirror.”

The CDC also recommends that while students should be learning fully in-person this fall, masking everyone at school is best, regardless of vaccination status.

“Vaccination is still very effective, although not perfect, and masking is also known to be successful in protecting against the virus,” said Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC’s medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology. “Everyone should continue to make decisions on masking based on their vaccine status, health, what activities they’re engaging in and the vulnerability of those around them.”

To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine at UPMC, visit Vaccine.UPMC.com.