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CDC alters mask guidance due to COVID-19 surge: How did we get here?

Experts attribute the rise in case to the more contagious delta variant, as well as the large number of Americans who are still unvaccinated.

CLEVELAND — New CDC mask recommendations stemming from the fast-spreading COVID-19 delta variant are a reversal from just over five weeks ago, when it looked like no masks and normalcy were back.

"We went from being in a pretty positive place to being back in the pandemic a little bit," Dr. Keith Armitage with University Hospitals said.

The progress the country was making in the fight against the coronavirus has been put into reverse. Now, the CDC says those where COVID is spreading rapidly should again wear masks indoors, even if fully vaccinated.

"Unfortunately, the delta variant has been a game changer," Armitage told 3News.

In early summer, COVID-19 cases dropped significantly, which is credited to emergency-authorized vaccinations.

"We were kind of getting one or two admissions a week, at most," Armitage said.

However, the highly contagious delta variant is now attacking unvaccinated Americans, according to medical experts.

A map released by the CDC shows areas where the delta variant positives are surging. The areas colored red and orange is where people are being asked to wear masks regardless of vaccine status (so far, most of Ohio is in the clear).

Credit: CDC
This image from July 27 shows CDC's COVID-19 community transmission tracker, with orange indicating counties with substantial transmission and red indicating high transmission.

"I don't think, with as much vaccine as we have in our region, I don't we'll be back where we were in December, January," Armitage noted adding that he attributes new variants as to why the pandemic took such a fast turn. "People are more contagious earlier after being infected, and when they are contagious, they're just putting our more virus. It's so contagious. It just has such a rapid spread. It seems like it's going to infect people if they're not vaccinated."

According to Armitage, the only way to keep more contagious variants from creating and spreading is vaccinations.

"We need to get people vaccinated to keep people from replicating rapidly and creating variants," he cautioned.