CDC to Chesco residents: time to wear masks in public, indoor settings again

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

Vector color chalk drawn illustration of medical mask on black chalkboard background.

Well, it was nice while it lasted — it is time to break out the masks again, thanks to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. 

As of Thursday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now recommending that all residents of Chester County — vaccinated or unvaccinated — again mask up in indoor, public environments, after the latest COVID-19 infection numbers showing the county moving into “Substantial” spread category for the virus.

The CDC is not recommending masking outdoors at this time.

Chester County — which had been among the lowest in the commonwealth in terms of COVID spread as the Delta variant starting spiking numbers nationally — crossed the threshold of having more than 50 cases per 100,000 of population over the last seven days on Thursday, the CDC said. Chester County joins some 83% of counties in the U.S. which now have at least “substantial” transmission.

Earlier this week, the CDC recommended all students and staff be masked when school resumes later this month.

Until Thursday, Chester County had been among the lower areas of transmission in the commonwealth. However, much of the southeast and southwest of the United States is seeing “High” levels of transmission — meaning more than 100 cases per 100,000 in population during a given seven-day period.

The new Delta variant of COVID is much more transmissible than the early version of the virus and has become the dominant strain of the virus in both the United States and Pennsylvania. While vaccinated people are still very unlikely to get sick, Delta is more likely to be transmitted by them because this variant has a much higher viral load.

Still, because of relatively high vaccination rates, both Pennsylvania and Chester County are not seeing the level of outbreak in other parts of the nation, where in some states, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed — and victims of the virus have tended to be younger and without pre-existing health problems, unlike the the December-January peak for the virus.

According to the CDC, 290,011 Chester County residents are fully vaccinated with another 37,045 partially vaccinated. That is out of a total population of 524,989 — 62.1% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated (children under age 12 cannot get the vaccine as yet, while 69.9% of the entire population of the county has had at least one shot.

Still, as of now, there is no mandate for masking — businesses still have the choice to decide how they decide to manage mask wearing.

One other impact: it means the CDC moratorium on evictions is now in place in Chester County as of Thursday.

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