The country’s largest nurses union called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend mask wearing in public regardless of people's vaccination status, The Hill reported.
In a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday, the National Nurses Union asked the agency re-institute guidelines for all people to wear masks in public and in close proximity to those outside their household, according to The Hill on Tuesday.
The NNU’s letter pointed to a 16% increase in COVID-19 cases from last week, according to CDC data. It also cited an increase in case counts in more than 40 states and in hospitalizations in more than 25 states.
"NNU strongly urges the CDC to reinstate universal masking, irrespective of vaccination status, to help reduce the spread of the virus, especially from infected individuals who do not have any symptoms," NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo wrote in the letter.
"Our suggestions are based on science and the precautionary principle and are made in order to protect nurses, other essential workers, patients, and the public from COVID-19."
Castillo also cited the World Health Organization's call for vaccinated people to continue to wear masks in public amid the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
The Hill reported several U.S. officials and experts have said that the WHO's recommendation reflects the state of the pandemic worldwide — which has overall lower vaccination rates than the U.S.
Although acknowledging COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death, Castillo said "no vaccine is 100 percent effective, and the emergence and spread of variants of concern may reduce vaccine effectiveness."
The Hill said the NNU’s letter asked the CDC to:
- Update its guidance to "fully recognize aerosol transmission."
- Mandate tracking and reporting of cases among health care and essential workers.
- Keep records of cases, including mild and asymptomatic infections, among fully vaccinated people to measure the vaccines' effectiveness.
CDC officials have defended the mask guidance, updated in May, saying fully vaccinated individuals are protected against the virus.
NNU, though, argues that suggesting vaccinated people can go maskless in virtually all settings endangers patients, front-line workers, and nurses.
Castillo wrote the CDC’s relaxation of mask guidance "failed to account for" the possibility of fully vaccinated people contracting and spreading the virus, The Hill reported.
The NNU also said the CDC’s guidelines do not protect people, including children, who are unable to receive the vaccine.
On Friday, the CDC said vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear masks inside school buildings.
Also, Los Angeles County residents are being asked to wear masks indoors again — just two weeks after L.A. dropped its mask mandate — over fears of the new Delta variant.
The Delta variant now accounts for 51.7% all new coronavirus infections in the U.S., CDC data shows. The Alpha variant, which first surfaced in Britain and dominated infections in America for months, now only accounts for 28.7% of U.S. cases.
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