Vaccinated? You still might have to wear your mask. What we know about the new CDC guidelines

Daniella Medina
Nashville Tennessean

Are mask mandates making a comeback?

Masks are now recommended indoors for those who are vaccinated and live in high transmission areas, according to new guidance announced Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"Information on the delta variant from several states and other countries indicates that in rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others," CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky said on a telebriefing with reporters. "This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations."

The new guidelines come as COVID-19 and delta variant cases continue to rise and vaccination rates dwindle in the U.S., Walensky said. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday the CDC was reexamining mask mandates for vaccinated Americans. 

Here's how the new mask mandate and recommendations could affect you.

To mask or not to mask:The CDC says masks for the vaccinated are optional. As COVID cases climb, some feel differently.

Do I need to wear a mask if I'm vaccinated?

According to the CDC's updated guidelines, vaccinated individuals are recommended to wear a mask in public, indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the delta variant. 

Previously, the CDC said vaccinated individuals did not need to wear a mask indoors, but those who aren't vaccinated should.

How does the delta variant impact the CDC's new mask guidelines?

Walensky said what's different with the delta variant is its high transmissibility rate. 

"We felt it important that people understand they have the potential to transmit the virus to others," she said. 

Vaccinated individuals could still transmit the COVID-19 virus, including the delta variant, to others — but the vast amount of transmission is occurring through unvaccinated individuals, Walensky said. 

"We are still largely in a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Walensky said.

Do vaccines protect against the delta variant?:What to know about symptoms, testing, travel restrictions and hot spots as cases rise

Will masks be required in schools?

Although masks in schools is handled at the state level, the CDC now recommends face coverings should be worn in K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.

This goes for staff, students, faculty and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, Walensky said. 

The CDC maintains its stance on recommending students to return to in-person learning this fall. 

Original CDC guidance, released on July 9, did not largely take into account the delta variant, Walensky said.

The CDC had also anticipated a higher vaccination rate by the fall. 

Will the CDC update its guidance again?

The CDC is not looking at updating its CDC guidance again right now, Walensky said when asked if the agency would issue new guidance about requiring masks indoors for all public spaces and it would not issue new public health measures given the threat of the delta variant.

Are mask and vaccine mandates coming in schools?:More doctors and officials push for them

Contributing: USA TODAY's Elinor Aspegren, Steven Vargas, Ryan W. Miller

Daniella Medina is a digital producer for the USA TODAY Network. Follow her on Twitter @danimedinanews