CDC alters mask guidance — what that means for NJ

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, fully vaccinated people now advised to wear masks in certain regions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday reversed the mask guidance it released in May. The nation’s top public-health agency now recommends that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should wear masks indoors in public settings in regions that have a  “substantial or high transmission” of the coronavirus.

The recommendations also include universal masking for schools — including school visitors — regardless of vaccination status.

As of now, seven counties in New Jersey are considered areas of “substantial” transmission for COVID-19. Monmouth County is the only county considered to be a “high” transmission area. Twelve are considered “moderate” transmission areas. Cumberland County is the only county considered a “low” transmission area. (See map here of COVID-19 cases by county.)

The reversal on mask guidance comes as new COVID-19 cases have dramatically increased and the delta variant accounts for many of them. In New Jersey, the rate of transmission has increased most days since the state lifted its mask mandate.

The CDC says infections in fully vaccinated people are rare, even with the delta variant. But preliminary data suggests that, if infected, those who are fully vaccinated can spread the virus to others. Unvaccinated people are more likely to develop serious illness and even long-term complications.

“Governor Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Health will review the new CDC guidance on masking requirements in response to the spread of the Delta variant,” said Alexandra Altman, a spokeswoman in the governor’s office. “Governor Murphy continues to encourage all individuals ages 12 and up to receive the free and effective COVID-19 vaccination to reduce the spread of the virus,”

So, what activities does the CDC deem to be safe for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals? And where should you wear masks? Here are some examples:

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