Coronavirus

Indiana health leaders ‘strongly encourage’ following CDC guidance on masks

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — State health leaders on Friday were “strongly encouraging” everyone over age 2 to mask up even if they’re vaccinated.

Dr. Kris Box, commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, says the state will follow the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, which included asking everyone to unpack their masks and start wearing them again.

The state’s recommendation came as the positivity rate is rising in Indiana. Hospitalizations are also up largely due to the delta variant, according to health officials.

State health leaders say even those who are vaccinated can spread the contagious variant.

The latest data from the Department of Health shows Indiana’s positivity rate is 6.8%, 0.2% higher than this time in 2020 and a significant increase from the just over 2% that the state saw in late June.

“A year ago today, we reported 900 cases per day. This week, we are averaging more than 900 cases per day,” Box said Friday.

The delta variant has been identified as much more contagious by experts, which was why Box said even people who are vaccinated are included in the latest mask recommendations.

More than half of Hoosiers have still not received a single dose of a COVID vaccine, a state online dashboard says.

“Until we increase our vaccination rates and until we use every tool available to us to stop the spread of disease, this virus will continue to have the advantage. It will continue to mutate, and we will be constantly playing Whac-A-Mole for the foreseeable future,” Box said.

Because the vaccination rate has dropped significantly from the spring, the health department says it’s “strongly urging” Hoosiers to follow the latest CDC guidance for those 2 and older to wear a mask regardless of vaccination. They are especially pushing this in places such as schools and long-term care facilities.

“Demand has fallen off. We knew that this would happen. Unfortunately, it is happening when we are seeing a resurgence of cases due to the delta variant,” said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, the state’s chief medical officer.

Breakthrough cases account for 0.126% of those who are fully vaccinated. So, for those who are frustrated in having to mask up again despite having already gotten vaccinated, Box said that “what we are dealing with is a new variant here and until this particular virus has been around longer and more people have either been infected with it or vaccinated for it, over and over again we will probably continue to see pockets of outbreak like this.”

Box says, after hearing from local leaders, the state is not putting another mask mandate in place but is leaving it up to localities to decide based on the recommendation from the state and the CDC.

With these new developments, health officials are recommending that even vaccinated Hoosiers get tested if they come into close contact with someone who tests positive, especially if symptoms are present, and wear a mask until they receive negative results and are symptom-free.

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