Vaccinated people have been able to stop wearing their face masks in many situations, but the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant now has some health officials urging for continued mask-wearing even for the fully vaccinated.
The World Health Organization and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health are now recommending that everyone, even if fully vaccinated, wear a mask while indoors in public places after a surge in cases of the variant -- which is said to be highly transmissible -- in some locations and among certain populations.
"What we do know about the Delta variant is that it is very contagious -- more contagious than some of the other variants, which is why it spreads more rapidly than some of the other variants," Dr. Philip Landrigan, the director of the Program in Global Public Health & Common Good at Boston College, explains to CNN.
Keeping a mask with you while out and about is what Dr. Mark Mulligan suggests. "I would just say maybe keep your mask in your pocket and if you feel you are in a situation that warrants it, it certainly is good to have it available," he told CNN.
Health officials stress the Delta variant is more of a concern for those who are not vaccinated and the changes in mask policies are meant to safeguard those who have not received their shots. Some health officials worry there could be a surge in cases in areas with low vaccination rates.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday, "If you are vaccinated, you are safe from the variants that are circulating here in the United States... We know that the WHO has to make guidelines and provide information to the world. Right now, we know as we look across the globe that less than 15 percent of people around the world have been vaccinated and many of those people have really only received one dose of a two-dose vaccine. There are places around the world that are surging... We have always said that local policymakers need to make policies for their local environment."
According to a British study from last month, the Pfizer vaccine is believed to be 88 percent effective against the variant after two doses, and CNN notes, "There's little evidence Delta can bypass the protection offered by full vaccination. Numerous studies have shown the vaccines -- especially the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna -- provide strong, broad protection that gives a cushion of extra immunity above and beyond what's provided by natural infection."
Also, Dr. Walensky noted there is "less data" on how the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine does against the Delta variant, but said, "Right now, we have no information to suggest that you need a second shot after J&J, even with the Delta variant."
The Doctors feel the rise in the Delta variant could serve as a reason to finally get your vaccine if you have been putting it off. Find out where to get your free COVID-19 vaccine, here.
Additionally, it is important to remember that while the COVID vaccines are highly effective, they are not foolproof and if you are unvaccinated, have unvaccinated members in your household (like children under 12), or simply feel the need to mask up while in public, put on that mask and reduce your risk of infection.