OAKLAND, Calif. - A major change was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday that even vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
The health agency also focused on a return to classes this fall.
"CDC recommends that everyone in K to 12 schools wear a mask indoors including teachers, staff, students, and visitors regardless of vaccination status," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC.
Triggering the change is the more easily transmissible delta variant, which is on the rise.
The United States is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day with 24,000 people hospitalized for COVID-19 related symptoms,
The unvaccinated and areas with low vaccination rates are behind the rise in cases.
"This moment, and more importantly the associated illness, suffering, and death could have been avoided with higher vaccination coverage in this country," Walensky said Tuesday.
The CDC recommendation applies to areas of substantial transmissions, such as parts of the country with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people over a week.
According to the CDC, Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano and San Francisco counties are at high risk of COVID-19 transmission.
The remaining counties are classified as substantial, with Santa Cruz and Monterey counties falling within the moderate category.
"I’m sure the Bay Area is going to say we’re going to strengthen that recommendation. Why not do it right now when cases and hospitalizations are still high and then we can come off when we get to really, really low rates," said Dr. Monica Gandhi, Associate Division Chief of Infectious Diseases at UCSF.
California Governor Gavin Newson said Tuesday he is looking into learning about the details of the CDC announcement, but wouldn't comment further.
"I want the benefit of actually reading the details before the state comes out with guidelines," Newsom said.
At the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki praised the CDC action as another tool in the arsenal of the war with the virus.
"We're not saying that wearing a mask is convenient or people like it, but we are telling you that that is the way to protect yourself, protect your loved ones. And that's why the CDC is issuing this guidance," she told reporters during her Tuesday press briefing.