The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has backtracked on its testing recommendations for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The agency now advises people who come into contact with someone with COVID-19 to get tested, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or are showing symptoms, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The CDC had previously said that fully vaccinated people do not need to be tested after exposure unless they had symptoms of COVID-19.
“Our updated guidance recommends vaccinated people get tested upon exposure regardless of symptoms,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told the Times. “Testing is widely available.”
Walensky said the change had been made in light of data suggesting that vaccinated people could still carry the so-called delta variant of COVID-19.
Fully vaccinated individuals are recommended to wear a mask in public indoor spaces after they have been exposed to the virus and to get tested three to five days later.
If the test comes back negative, they can stop wearing a mask indoors.
The new testing recommendations came as the CDC advised universal masking indoors in places with high COVID-19 transmission rates.
“To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission,” the new guidelines read.
The CDC uses the number of new cases per 1000,000 residents and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests over the past week to determine whether an area has high or substantial transmission, CNBC reported.
About 1,495 counties were in the “high transmission” category as of Wednesday, and 548 were in the “substantial” category.
It is up to local governments to decide whether to enforce the CDC’s recommendations.
“We know that when you’re vaccinated, you are significantly less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID,” Dr. Natasha Bhuyan told CNBC.
“But even if you’re vaccinated, while rare, you can still get COVID and you can still be contagious and pass COVID to other people.”
The changes come as fears of the delta variant of COVID-19 spread across the country.
“The delta variant is more aggressive and much more transmissible than previously circulating strains,” Walensky said during a news briefing last week, according to CNBC.
“It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career.”
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