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The CDC has updated its guidelines, once again, regarding Covid-19, and it looks like masks are making a comeback.

The Capitol’s Attending Physician Brian Monahan said late Tuesday that the House of Representatives is reinstating its mask mandate – and therefore the threat of fines to members who don’t comply – following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the delta variant of the coronavirus.

The CDC said Tuesday that it recommends people who are vaccinated and in areas with high COVID-19 spread wear masks indoors. The new recommendation will likely prompt new mask mandates around the country and has already done so in the U.S. Capitol. 

Monahan said in a letter sent to congressional staffers, “For the Congress, representing a collection of individuals traveling weekly from various risk areas (both high and low rates of disease transmission), all individuals should wear a well-fitted, medical-grade filtration mask (for example an earloop surgical mask or a KN95 mask) when they are in an interior space.” 

Monahan said the reasoning behind the decision in his letter, tracking closely with the reasoning used by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in his announcement Tuesday, is that the CDC would again recommend masks for unvaccinated people. 

“In the past two weeks, USA coronavirus cases have significantly increased, now approaching 100,000 cases per day. The delta variant virus has been detected in Washington, DC and in the Capitol buildings,” Monahan said. “It represents a dire health risk to unvaccinated individuals and is not without some risk to the vaccinated individuals or their unvaccinated household contacts.”

Monahan added, “Despite the excellent protective value of the coronavirus vaccine in preventing hospitalization and death, there is still a possibility a fully-vaccinated individual could acquire infection in their nose and throat, mild symptoms, or the ability to transmit the coronavirus infection to others.”

He continued, warning about the possibility of “long COVID” and referred to the fact that some local governments have either mandated masks or recommended them already in light of the delta variant. 

The CDC’s decision Tuesday was highly controversial, with many alleging that it will undermine faith in vaccines just as the U.S. is trying to increase vaccination rates among hesitant populations. 

Others are concerned that local and state governments would use the new recommendation from the CDC as a means to implement new mandates, requiring vaccinated people to wear masks indoors even if they are healthy, confident that their vaccines work, and in a situation where they are comfortable not masking. (To find out about your particular state’s mandate, take a look here.)

But Walensky and the White House defended the new guidance as grounded in science and aimed at protecting Americans. Walensky told reporters Tuesday, “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. This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.”

It is worth noting that, while infections are up significantly, deaths have NOT (as yet) followed the same increase. At it’s height, roughly 4,000 people per day were dying as a result of Covid-19. The CDC’s rolling 7-day average currently reports (as of publication) 223 deaths.

Furthermore, CDC Director Walensky noted that 97% of people hospitalized with Covid-19 are unvaccinated, and 99.5% of deaths being amongst the unvaccinated. If you are in a high-risk category (elderly, obese, significant underlying conditions, etc), you should seriously consider getting vaccinated. Talk with your doctors and care providers.

And no matter what the government does, we can all check on friends & family, and look out for one another.