Damakant Jayshi

Five weeks before students return to Wisconsin classrooms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended universal indoor masking for everyone in schools, regardless of their Covid-19 vaccine status.

Schools in the state are largely scheduled to reopen on Sept. 1.

During a media briefing on Tuesday, the CDC also said that vaccinated people in areas of high transmission of Covid-19 should resume wearing masks. The agency also recommended that vaccinated people who are immunocompromised or at increased risk of severe diseases wear masks irrespective of where they live.

Meanwhile, in its regular daily update, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services said the state’s seven-day average of Covid-19 cases was at the highest it has been since mid-May. “Today’s confirmed case count is 983, the highest it’s been since the beginning of April,” the DHS said in its own update.

According to the CDC, Marathon County is among the majority of counties in the state that have moderate level of transmission.

Map

Description automatically generated

This is a reversal of guidance from the CDC. On May 13, the agency recommended that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.” 

The new guidance comes in the wake of the Delta variant of Covid-19 spreading through the United States, especially in areas with low vaccination rates.

“The Delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said during a media briefing on Tuesday.

Most of the hospitalizations and deaths have occurred in places where people have resisted getting one of the three approved vaccines, prompting the CDC director earlier this month to call it “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth Project that places journalists into local newsrooms. Reach him at damakant@wausaupilotandreview.com.