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UPDATE: San Diego County to follow new CDC guidance in recommending wearing masks indoors

SAN DIEGO — After weeks of insisting fully vaccinated people could shed face coverings in most situations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course Tuesday and recommended mask-wearing indoors for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in areas experiencing “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission.

San Diego County is among those counties in the U.S. currently listed by the CDC as having “high” transmission rates.

County Supervisor Nora Vargas says the health department is in the process of understanding what these new guidelines mean for San Diego.

“We’re in the process of figuring out what the next steps are, but I think it’s important to remind everybody that this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, so we want to have people who have not been vaccinated to get their vaccine,” she said. “We are seeing any of the data that we are seeing on folks who have received COVID are people who haven’t been vaccinated.”

The new CDC mask guidelines stress wearing masks indoors or in areas in the country where the delta variant is widespread. County officials are now reviewing how that will be interpreted in San Diego.

“We can have all the conversations we want about people using their masks, following the CDC guidelines, but the truth is we need people to get vaccinated who are not vaccinated,” Vargas said.

Vagas says her administration is focused on safety.

“I think we are going to follow the guidelines and we are going to do what the CDC says, so if right now the CDC says we need to wear a mask, we’ll be wearing masks,” she said.

Supervisors haven’t come up with any official guidelines for San Diego County — with the big questions being whether masks will be mandatory or recommended.

Earlier this month, Los Angeles County implemented a mask-wearing mandate in indoor public settings for everyone, citing spiking cases attributed to spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19. It was not immediately clear if other local counties will impose similar mandates now that the CDC is recommending indoor mask-wearing for all.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced the change Tuesday, saying the Delta variant “behaves uniquely different from past strains of the virus that cause COVID-19.”

She called rapid spread of the COVID variant “worrisome,” and said its behavior “warrants an update to our recommendations.”

Mask-wearing has remained a requirement indoors across California for unvaccinated people. However, enforcement of the requirement was based largely on the honor system, making it uncertain if unvaccinated residents were abiding by the rule.