By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
SOUTH JERSEY — On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidance regarding mask-wearing in the United States. The public health agency said that all individuals should continue wearing masks in places where COVID-19’s spread is deemed to be “substantial” or “high,” regardless of whether or not they’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC’s change of heart from its recommendation comes as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads throughout the United States. Although the COVID-19 vaccines are still safe and effective in stopping the spread of the virus, the Delta variant is said to be twice as contagious as other variants and spreading rapidly among unvaccinated Americans.
The CDC released a map that shows its data on COVID-19’s spread throughout the United States by county, which you can see below:
The CDC also has an interactive version of this map where you can look at every county in the country individually. You can access that interactive map here.
It’s not hard to read between the lines and see that the CDC’s updated recommendation, which only applies to the orange and red counties on this map, is a not-so-subtle message to the southern United States about the state of the pandemic. However, the map shows that New Jersey, which has the sixth-best COVID-19 vaccination rate in the country, isn’t completely out of the woods regarding the pandemic.
According to the CDC’s map, three counties in South Jersey — Burlington, Ocean, and Atlantic — all currently have a “substantial” level of community transmission. Under the new recommendations outlined by the CDC, people who live in these three counties should wear masks in indoor public settings, regardless of their vaccination status.
As of Wednesday, the rest of South Jersey appears to be in fairly good shape regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Camden, Gloucester, Salem, and Cape May counties all currently have a “moderate” community transmission level, and Cumberland County’s level is considered “low” at this time. You can see the full current map of New Jersey’s COVID-19 transmission rate below:
At the time of publication, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy hadn’t taken any measures in response to the new CDC guidance regarding masks. Statewide, New Jersey’s case numbers are up, but as the CDC’s map shows, most of the state is still in decent shape regarding COVID-19. Gov. Murphy has previously stated his desire not to reintroduce a mask mandate for the entire state, but he said he’ll do so “if we have to.”
In addition to the general mask guidance, the CDC recommended that all individuals in schools — including students, faculty, and staff — wear masks when schools reopen full-time, in-person instruction this fall. New Jersey has stated multiple times that schools should reopen for full-time, in-person instruction this year, but it’s unclear if the state will introduce a mask mandate for schools at this time.
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