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CDC updates mask guidance for areas with high COVID-19 spread

Governor Andrew Cuomo said he is reviewing the new CDC recommendations.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — In areas of the country with substantial and high spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday, they will be recommending fully vaccinated people wear masks while indoors. 

As the new Delta variant sweeps the nation, the CDC has created two benchmarks to determine if a county has low, moderate, substantial or high spread. 

If a county's seven day total of new cases per 100,000 people is greater than 50, it is considered substantial spread and they recommend masking while indoors.

"Information on the Delta variant from several states and other countries indicate that in rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others," said CDC Director Dr.Rochelle Walensky during a press conference. "This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations."  

No areas in the Western New York region will need to make this change at this point. According to CDC data, all of Western New York is in the moderate range except for Chautauqua and Genesee Counties which are low. However, Erie County is close to the substantial range at 38.

Citing new information about the delta variant spreading among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff and students in schools regardless of vaccination status.

"It makes me wonder what the New York State Department of Health will do with that recommendation, they haven't just wholesale picked up CDC recommendations in the past and I'm not so sure that they would do that with this one either," said Erie-Niagara Counties School Superintendents Association President Mike Cornell.

These recommendations would need to be adopted by New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo released this statement Tuesday evening in response to the announcement:

"New Yorkers beat back COVID before -- going from the highest positivity rate on the globe to one of the lowest -- by staying smart, following the science, and having each other's backs, and that's exactly what we'll keep doing in this next phase of the pandemic. We are reviewing the CDC's new recommendations closely in consultation with federal and state health experts."

Credit: CDC