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Health & Medicine

New CDC Guidance Recommends Wearing Masks Indoors In Tazewell, Fulton Counties - Even If Fully Vaccinated

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Centers for Disease Control
A CDC map of current COVID-19 risk levels in Central Illinois. In counties rated at "high" or "substantial" risk, the CDC now recommends even the fully vaccinated don a mask indoors again.

The Centers For Disease Control says even the fully vaccinated should now wear masks indoors in some areas deemed to be at higher risk as the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads rapidly.

Per CDC criteria, Stark and Mason counties are considered to be at the highest COVID-19 risk level, based on the total new cases per 100,000 in the past seven days, and the total percentage of tests coming back positive.

Tazewell, Fulton and McLean counties are are at a lower "substantial" level of risk, though the CDC still recommends the fully vaccinated mask indoors in those communities, as well.

Areas deemed at high risk report more than 100 cases per 100,000 people per day. Substantial risk is defined between 50 to 99 new cases per 100,000 a day.

Peoria and Woodford counties remain below the new masking threshold at a "moderate" risk. The Peoria City/County and Tazewell County health departments on Tuesday announced they will resume daily COVID-19 case updates on weekdays, after shifting to less frequent updates in June.

The revised guidance was issued by the CDC on Tuesday. Previously, health authorities said the fully vaccinated could safely unmask in most situations. But the Delta variant is believed to be significantly more contagious than previous COVID-19 strains, and large segments of the population remain unvaccinated.

“Cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 both continue to increase, overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated, but the risk is greater for everyone if we do not stop the ongoing spread of the virus and the Delta variant," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in a prepared statement. "We know masking can help prevent transmission of COVID-19 and its variants. Until more people are vaccinated, we join CDC in recommending everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in areas of substantial and high transmissions, and in K-12 schools.”

The new guidance recommends, but doesn't mandate, universal masking for K-12 schools.

"Vaccination is the key. It is the layer of defense that we need. But 12 and under, your smallest children cannot be vaccinated," said Peoria County Regional Superintendent Beth Crider said at a county health committee meeting on Tuesday. "So we still need to look at layered mitigation. And we're working through what that looks like in your public schools, but we're meeting some challenges with that."

Crider says while Peoria Public Schools is mandating universal masking, none of the county's other districts had planned to follow that lead before the new guidance was issued. Instead, she says many districts planned to make masking optional for the fully vaccinated.

The IDPH is warning districts which don't follow the CDC guidance may open themselves up to insurance liability.

The CDC continues to recommend the unvaccinated get a COVID-19 shot - and to mask up until they're considered fully vaccinated.

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