Your question: Now that the CDC has changed its guidance, how do I find out if I’m supposed to wear a mask indoors?

The answer: New mask guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control are no longer a simple, one-size fits all. The new federal guidance on whether to mask up is now based on county transmission rates, rather than simply on a person’s vaccination status.

The CDC’s has a color-coded map online at https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.

In counties with high or substantial levels of transmission, which are shaded in red and orange on the CDC’s transmission rate map, residents are advised to don masks in public indoor places, even if they are vaccinated.

In counties with moderate and low transmission rates, colored blue and yellow on the map, vaccinated individuals don’t need to mask up, according to the CDC’s new guidance. Williams County is currently in the moderate category, so the CDC doesn’t recommend masking locally.

In issuing its new recommendation, the CDC said preliminary evidence suggests vaccinated people who become infected with the Delta variant may be able to spread that infection to others.

Breakthrough infections of COVID-19 have occurred in at least 10,262 cases, out of 164 million people fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. That number may be under-reported, however, since the CDC is only prioritizing breakthrough cases where patients were hospitalized or die. All other breakthroughs are being voluntarily reported.

These new recommendations are generally not enforceable by the CDC. The federal government only enforces interstate and federally regulated transportation, like ships, planes and trains. The rest is up to state and local governments.

District 7 isn’t planning to change its guidance at this time.

“Currently we do not plan on mandating masks as we start school this Fall, Williston Basin School District No. 007 Superintendent Jeffrey Thake told the Williston Herald.

Gov. Doug Burgum said in a statement North Dakota won’t be recommending any changes in its guidance for state employees in response to the new CDC recommendations.

“North Dakota’s statewide COVID-19 emergency ended April 30. Local entities are best suited to consider CDC guidelines based on local conditions, including case rates, positivity rates and available hospital capacity. North Dakota has relied on personal responsibility throughout the pandemic,” he said. “Residents are encouraged to educate themselves on the differences of the Delta variant, be aware of the level of spread in their area and utilize well-known COVID-19 etiquette and mitigation measures as appropriate.”

Burgum said while COVID-19 cases today are just 3 percent of North Dakota’s peak case numbers last November, and that statewide hospitalizations remain below 20 patients, the positive case numbers are trending in the wrong direction, even with limited testing occurring.

He urged those who have not yet gotten a vaccine to consider it.

“The highly contagious Delta variant is driving cases up across the United States, and nearly all COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths are among those not vaccinated. Safe, effective vaccines are available to all North Dakotans ages 12 and up and represent the best defense against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Individuals with questions about the vaccines, which are now protecting nearly 1.5 billion people worldwide, are encouraged to visit with their own doctor or medical provider.”

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