Philly, several suburban counties now seeing substantial COVID-19 transmission

Days after the CDC issued new masking guidance for fully vaccinated people, much of the Philadelphia region is experiencing “substantial” levels of COVID-19 transmission.

People waiting in line to enter a grocery store wear COVID-19 protective masks

People waiting in line to enter a grocery store wear COVID-19 protective masks, Friday, July 3, 2020, in McCandless, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

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After a period of relative calm, with new coronavirus cases declining over the course of several months, many counties throughout the Delaware Valley are seeing “substantial” levels of COVID-19 transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC on Thursday released updated guidance for fully-vaccinated people, calling for mask-wearing in public, indoor spaces in areas of substantial or high transmission.

Philadelphia, as well as Montgomery and Delaware counties, now fall under the substantial transmission umbrella, as defined by the CDC.

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A map of Pennsylvania illustrates varying levels of COVID-19 transmission
Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Delaware counties are all seeing “substantial” levels of COVID-19 transmission. (CDC)

In South Jersey, Atlantic, Burlington, Gloucester, Ocean, and Salem counties are experiencing substantial transmission of the virus, as are all three counties in neighboring Delaware. Cape May County is seeing high transmission.

The latest CDC guidance stems from new findings regarding the delta variant that indicate fully vaccinated people can transmit COVID-19 much more easily than scientists previously believed.

“We knew that the delta variant was more than twice as contagious as the original strain,” NPR’s Maria Godoy said Saturday on Weekend Edition. “What we’ve learned this week is that it’s so contagious, when a fully vaccinated person gets a breakthrough infection, the levels of virus found in their nose is just as high as someone who hasn’t been vaccinated,” she explained, “meaning they can transmit and spread the virus.”

“That’s a big deal,” Godoy added, “and it’s why the CDC is now advising the vaccinated to mask up indoors in public places.”

State and local health officials have stopped short of restoring a mask mandate in the wake of the CDC’s updated guidance.

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Philadelphia health officials had previously recommended “that everyone mask while indoors in places where you do not know that everyone is vaccinated,” citing a rise in COVID-19 cases and child hospitalizations. New Jersey health officials made the same recommendation this week.

Montgomery County officials on Thursday released mask guidance aligned with CDC transmission levels.

The CDC continues to stress that COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective at preventing infections, severe disease, and death, and that breakthrough infections are rare.√

WHYY’s Ximena Conde contributed reporting.

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