Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, urged Americans to wear masks indoors during Labor Day gatherings to prevent transmission of the coronavirus, whether or not you’re vaccinated.
“If gathering with family and friends, remember that spending time outside with others who are vaccinated will help to prevent transmission,” she said at a Tuesday White House briefing. “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that the vast majority of transmission takes place among unvaccinated people in closed indoor settings.”
She added, “When in public indoor settings, please where a mask, vaccinated or unvaccinated. … Masks are not forever, but they are for now.”
Walensky also encouraged schools and parents to enforce masking and distancing among students. Children who are eligible should be vaccinated, and school districts should have screening protocols in place for teachers and students, she said.
“We’re seeing schools not following this guidance ― specifically not masking and with lower rates of vaccination ― are dealing with outbreaks, especially in the context of this very transmissible Delta variant,” she said. “We are encouraging those schools to follow our guidance.”
In addition to seeing more children hospitalized, Walensky said there is also an outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is unusual this time of year ― another reason to take precautions.
Meanwhile, vaccination rates continue to rise. In mid-July, the federal government was averaging 500,000 vaccinations per day. Now, an average of 900,000 Americans a day are getting the vaccines, the White House said.
In August, there were 14 million first doses administered ― almost 4 million more than there were in July.
COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients also urged more organizations to enforce mandatory vaccination. When Tyson Foods announced Aug. 3 that all employees must be vaccinated, Zients said, only 45% of the workforce had gotten the shot. Now, that number is up to 72%.
“Bottom line, vaccination requirements work. They drive up vaccination rates,” he said. “And we need more businesses and other employers, including health care systems, school districts, colleges, and universities, to step up and do their part to help end the pandemic faster.”
News briefing, White House COVID-19 Response Team, Aug. 31, 2021.