We've got a couple of huge steps today in the fight to keep the Delta variant of the coronavirus from spiking (more, further) in the US. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be announcing changes to its guidance on wearing masks indoors, and will recommend that everyone, including fully vaccinated people, mask up indoors in parts of the country with high COVID-19 transmission rates. The new guidance will also recommend that all teachers, staff, and students in public schools wear masks when public schools reopen this fall.

Also, in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that all state workers will be required to either show proof they've been vaccinated, or to agree to be tested weekly. You know, for public health and tyranny.


Masks For Everybody, In Some Places

The CDC will announce the full details of its new masking recommendations at a 3 p.m. EDT press conference, but the basics were leaked to news outlets earlier today by "people familiar with the matter." The guidance will call for masking of all public school students and personnel, and will recommend indoor masking of all people in COVID hot spots, to stop the spread of the Delta variant. It will also recommend that vaccinated people mask up indoors if there are unvaccinated children or immunocompromised adults in their households.

The CDC had announced in May that fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks indoors altogether, but that unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks. Unfortunately, and extremely predictably, too many unvaccinated people took that as a sign that they didn't need masks, either, which is how we're seeing spikes in cases where vaccination rates are low.

The Washington Post also reports the new guidance was prompted in part by

new data showing that vaccinated people infected with the delta variant carry the same viral load as unvaccinated people who are infected, according to three people familiar with the data. Vaccinated people are unlikely to become severely ill, but the new data raises questions about how easily they might transmit the disease, said the three individuals. Such transmission did not happen in any significant way with earlier variants.

Albert Ko, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, said in an email prior to the CDC announcement that the finding of similar viral loads among vaccinated and unvaccinated people would suggest the need for changed guidance for vaccinated people. "There are several hoops in logic to pin down (duration of viral shedding being one) but the finding if rigorously proven would be concerning," Ko said.

The Post adds that the administration primarily considers the greatest risk to come from unvaccinated people transmitting Delta, and that vaccinated folks still play a "very small" role in its spread. [Rebecca would like to point out that if they still aren't sure, and they really couldn't be if there's no longer any contact tracing to speak of, and also particularly since they're not tracking Delta infections that don't result in hospitalizations, they should probably stop making proclamations like that.]

Newsom: Don't Let Fox News Kill You, Please

As Stephen noted in his vaccine mandate roundup, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced yesterday that the state will require all of its 246,000 employees, plus at least two million healthcare workers, to either show proof they've been vaccinated, or to be tested weekly for the virus. The policy for state workers will go into effect on August 2, with testing being phased in over the next few weeks.

And starting on August 9, the broader policy will begin for healthcare workers, as well as staff at congregate settings like nursing homes, homeless shelters, and jails. Health care facilities will have until August 23 to reach full compliance. Unvaccinated staff will have to agree to be tested "at least" weekly and to wear personal protective equipment. Here's Newsom announcing the new policy; he had some very choice words for rightwing media that have been spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines:

We're exhausted by the ideological prison that too many Americans are living under. We're exhausted by the Ron Johnsons and the Tucker Carlsons, we're exhausted by the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, we're exhausted by the right-wing echo chamber that has been perpetuating misinformation around the vaccine and its efficacy and safety.

We're exhausted by the politicalization of this pandemic and that includes mask wearing that has been equated to the Holocaust. It's disgraceful. it's unconscionable and it needs to be called out. Increasingly, it is being called out, and I want to acknowledge that. And I want to applaud, particularly, Republican leaders who have had the courage to call it out.

Newsom added that, to help people get reliable vaccination information from healthcare providers they trust, the state will be reimbursing medical practices up to $55,000 if they set up community-based vaccination sites in their offices, as well as a whole bunch of other vaccine outreach programs and clinics at barbershops, colleges, universities, and trade schools, houses of faith, and even at McDonalds restaurants and amusement parks.

Newsom wasn't at all respectful of people who want to spread a deadly virus in the name of "individual liberty," because like Catalina, no man is an island:

It's a choice to live with this virus, and with all due respect, you don't have the choice to go out and drink and drive and put everybody else's lives at risk. That's the equivalent of this moment with the deadliness and efficiency of the Delta virus. You're putting other people's, innocent people's, lives at risk.

Newsom also pointed out that the longer people believe disinformation from rightwing pundits, the longer it will take to safely reopen schools and businesses. Ever the gentleman, he didn't point out that getting back to normal was what Republicans were saying they wanted last summer, but that now they're absolutely dead set against doing the one thing necessary to get there.

Not surprisingly, being singled out as an indirect disease vector didn't sit too well with Marjorie Taylor Greene, who called Newsom the leader of a "communist dictatorship" for taking "disgraceful" measures to protect the state with the most small businesses in the country. (California must be very bad at communism.)

Newsom wasn't having any of that nonsense either, saying that Greene's rhetoric has been far worse than "disgraceful," it's been "murderous."

Disgraceful? Here's a word -- murderous.

Your anti-vaccine lies are literally killing Americans. Your own supporters are following you off a cliff and into the ICU.

Come clean about vaccines — they save lives.

So get vaxxed if you can, and if you're in an area with a high COVID transmission rate (the CDC will get specific later this hour), then get those masks on when you're indoors in public. And hey, why not be safe and do it even if you're not. We'll get through this.

[CNBC / WaPo / Politico / California Governor's Office]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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