CDC Changes its Tune on Masks

Washington has backpedaled its relaxed mask guidance, and is poised to announce a vaccine mandate for federal employees and contractors today, CNN reports.
 
The CDC now recommends that even vaccinated people continue to mask up indoors in areas of widespread transmission (with 50 cases or more per 100,000 people)—a standard encapsulating almost two thirds of US counties, including large swathes of the South, over the past week, according to STAT.

2 months ago, the agency said the vaccinated people could forgo masks indoors given vaccines’ success at limiting transmission. Stalling vaccination rates and the Delta variant’s meteoric rise, including some “breakthrough” infections among the immunized, changed all that. 
 
However frustrating the backtrack, international critics say relaxing mask guidance was a mistake in the first place—as was delaying the first recommendations back in April 2020, The Washington Post reports.
 
These big pivots can jeopardize public trust. Other countries, like Israel, have struggled with compliance after relaxing, then unrelaxing mask guidance. But broadly, there’s an East-West divide when it comes to attitudes toward masking, says Keiji Fukuda, head of the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health.
 
“In Western countries, many of those opposed to wearing masks still appear to equate it to an infringement upon personal rights,” Fukuda said. “In Asia, and certainly in Hong Kong, wearing a mask is simply seen as a safe and prudent step to take, similar to hand-washing and staying away from others if you are sick.”

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