By Laura Olson
The updated recommendations marked a sharp shift from the agency’s guidance in May that Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear a mask in most situations, indoors and outdoors.
The updates also included changes for schools, with federal health officials now urging everyone in K-12 schools to wear a mask indoors. That includes teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status and the level of community transmission.
The update in CDC guidance was prompted by new data indicating that although breakthrough infections among the vaccinated are rare, those individuals still may be contagious and able to spread the disease to others, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Wearing a mask indoors in areas with “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus could help to reduce further outbreaks of the highly contagious delta variant, she said.
Some 39 states have infection rates that have reached “substantial” or “high” levels of transmission, according to a data tracker on the CDC website. The CDC rates Virginia, with 56.4 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days and a 5 to 8 percent positivity rate, as having a “substantial” level of community transmission. However, that varies widely by locality.
“As always, we will thoroughly review these recommendations,” said Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ralph Northam. “The governor has taken a nuanced and data-driven approach throughout this pandemic—which is why Virginia has among the nation’s lowest total COVID-19 cases and death rates.
“As he has said repeatedly, the only way to end this pandemic is for everyone to get vaccinated. The facts show vaccines are highly effective at protecting Virginians from this serious virus — over 98 percent of hospitalizations and over 99 percent of deaths have been among unvaccinated Virginians.”
The agency also tracks infection rates on the county level, and 63 percent of U.S. counties are in those two categories of concern.
“This was not a decision that was taken lightly,” Walensky said. She added that other public health and medical experts agreed with the CDC that the new information on the potential for vaccinated people to have contagious infections required the agency to take action.
President Joe Biden described the agency’s revision on recommended mask use as “another step on our journey to defeating this virus.”
“I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it,” Biden said. “I certainly will when I travel to these areas.”
The mask-use changes may not be the only changes coming as the White House attempts to respond to the spiking infections. Biden also said Tuesday that a vaccination requirement for all federal employees is under consideration.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs already has required its frontline health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
But the new recommendations on masks are expected to be met with resistance.
Areas of the country with the highest spikes in COVID-19 infections tend to be those with the lowest vaccination rates and places that were the fastest to end mask mandates for public settings.
Some have taken legal steps to prevent future mask mandates. At least nine states — Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont — have enacted legislation that prohibits districts from requiring masks in schools, according to a CNN analysis.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, blasted the updated guidance in a statement Tuesday, describing it as “not grounded in reality or common sense.” Iowa’s level of community transmission is rated as “substantial” in the latest CDC map.
“I’m concerned that this guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools across the country, something I do not support,” Reynolds said, adding that the vaccine “remains our strongest tool to combat COVID-19” and that she will continue to urge vaccinations.
Walensky sidestepped a question during Tuesday’s news briefing about the level of compliance that the CDC expects with the new recommendations, saying only that the way to drive down rising community transmission rates is to wear masks and to increase vaccination rates.
Pipeline Still Closed but Work has Begun
The guesstimate for the reopening of the trail is two weeks.
Weekly Pipeline Update because our construction work has begun!
First and foremost, a reminder that, as of August 2nd, all sanitary (wastewater) flow has been diverted upstream at Tredegar, so any flow you may see leaking from Pipeline is river water that’s seeping in from Haxall Canal, groundwater, and/or stormwater from Richmond’s summer rain.Now for the good stuff: The scoop on the repair process!All materials and supplies needed for repairs have arrived, and CSX gave us the green-light to start working on the pipe on Monday (09.13.2021), so our crews got to work!This week our team is using a cement substance to fill in those pesky leaking holes along the pipe.Then, next week, our team will layer an epoxy and a mesh on the bottom and surrounding the entire pipe’s external circumference.Following the completion of all this work, our team will once again CCTV (closed-circuit television) the pipe to get an internal look at how we did. Only after we check our work and give it the good ol’ thumbs up will the trail and beaches alongside it be reopened. (We think we’re about two weeks away from that point.)Until then, Pipeline trail and its adjacent beaches are closed from Brown’s Island (under the 9th Street bridge) to the downstream, eastern end of the trail behind Virginia Street and Vistas On The James.
More soon, folks—stay tuned!
Pipeline Poop Problem Prolongs Passage Prohibition
Sewage problems mean you can’t walk the Pipeline but work is taking place, eventually.
The Pipeline, one of my favorite walks in town, has been off-limits for a while.
A quick reminder that, as of August 2nd, all sanitary (wastewater) flow has been diverted upstream at Tredegar, so any flow you may see leaking is river water that’s seeping into from Haxall Canal, groundwater, and/or stormwater from Richmond’s summer rain.
This week, our team got access from CSX to move forward with our work onsite. Our crew CCTV’ed (closed-circuit television) the pipe to get an internal look so they can know precisely what we’re dealing with.
Now it’s time for repairs! Our kickoff meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 7th.
Our repair work should take seven to ten days, weather- and river-level-dependent. The weather needs to be decent, but not necessarily dry when our crews get to work. So far, the forecast is looking pretty promising!
We will continue to provide updates about the timeline for repairs, and the timeline for when the trail and beaches can open following repairs. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, Pipeline Trail and the beaches alongside of it remain closed from Brown’s Island (under the 9th Street bridge) to the downstream, eastern end of the trail behind Virginia Street and Vistas On The James. A pipe in need of repair needs space!In the meantime, Pipeline Trail and the beaches alongside of it remain closed from Brown’s Island (under the 9th Street bridge) to the downstream, eastern end of the trail behind Virginia Street and Vistas On The James. A pipe in need of repair needs space!
Driver Charged in Shockoe Bottom Reckless Driving
On Sunday morning a car was doing burnouts and doughnuts. Later the driver slammed the car into a tree.
Richmond Police Department officers have charged a driver who was recklessly operating a vehicle in a Shockoe Bottom parking lot early on Sunday morning.
At approximately 1:15 a.m., officers on patrol in Shockoe Bottom observed a vehicle in a parking lot near Main Street Station which was doing burn runs/car doughnuts. As officers entered the parking lot, the driver of the vehicle left the scene on East Broad Street at a high rate of speed. A few blocks away in the 00 block of Governor Street, the vehicle left the roadway and collided with a tree. Officers arrested Teric Harcum, 20, of Chesterfield County, and charged him with reckless driving.
This type of reckless operation of motor vehicles is dangerous and can lead to serious injury. The Richmond Police Department continues to ask anyone who witnesses reckless driving or suspicious activity to call 911.