ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Virtually everyone in Florida needs to mask up to limit the spread of COVID-19 and its highly infectious delta variant, that is if new federal guidance is followed.
The state appears "red hot" on the newest map published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows every corner of the state dealing with high transmission of coronavirus.
Florida sticks out like a sore thumb covered in red whereas a county or two in Georgia and Mississippi are reporting slightly lower virus transmission rates. A county is considered a "high transmission" area with more than 100 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people or where there is a greater than 10-percent positivity of new tests in the past seven days.
The CDC reversed course Tuesday on some of its masking guidelines, recommending that vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where there are surging cases of COVID-19.
People who are unvaccinated always have been asked to wear a mask.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky indicated on a conference call that most new infections continue to be among unvaccinated people. Recently, however, officials have been monitoring "breakthrough" cases of vaccinated people who are dealing with mild illnesses.
The delta variant, however, is creating about the same amount of virus in infected vaccinated people as those who are unvaccinated.
The data emerged over the last couple of days from 100 samples, The Associated Press reports. It is unpublished, and the CDC has not released it. But "it is concerning enough that we feel like we have to act," Walensky said.
Vaccinated people "have the potential to spread that virus to others," she said.
On Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported 73,199 new cases overall for the week of July 16-22 — an average of 10,000 new cases a day. The percent positivity of new cases climbed to a new months-long high of 15.1 percent.
People 12 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for people 18 up. All have been found to be effective against COVID-19, with a recent study finding two doses of the Pfizer vaccine offering 88-percent protection against infection caused by the delta variant.
Visit the Florida Department of Health's website to find a vaccine location near you.
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