With the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reversing its stance on mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people July 27, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said that adhering to the new recommendations allows people to continue to safely return to their professional lives, including in-person meetings and events.
“From the onset, we have said our industry will follow the guidance of public health authorities,” Dow said. “The last thing we want is a backslide in the nascent recovery of travel, particularly as business travel slowly begins to rebuild.”
He added, “The updated CDC guidance should not hamper the progress made by our country in recent months as we have begun to travel and gather in-person again.”
In response to the fact that the fast-spreading Delta variant now accounts for 83 percent of U.S. COVID-19 cases, the CDC’s new guidance recommends that even people who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings when they are in areas of the country with substantial or high transmission levels. The CDC outlines those areas, which currently include two-thirds of all U.S. counties, on its website with a search function and a map that is regularly updated.
The CDC also suggests that fully vaccinated people should consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings regardless of the level of transmission if they are immunocompromised or at risk of severe illness, or if they live with someone who is.
Additionally, the CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people who have been around someone who has COVID-19 should get tested three to five days after exposure, even if they are asymptomatic. They should also wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days following exposure or until the test result is negative and fully isolate for 10 days if the test result is positive.
The new recommendations are aimed at maximizing protection against the highly contagious Delta variant and preventing the possibility of spreading it to others, according to the CDC. Evidence now suggests that fully vaccinated people can become infected with the Delta variant and spread it to others.
In response to a surge in Coronavirus cases across the country, several cities have reinstated mask mandates for public indoor settings, including Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo.; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; and Savannah, Ga. San Francisco Mayor London Breed said this week that the city is considering reviving its mask mandate for public indoor settings.
Mask-wearing at professional meetings and events (PMEs) is the top safety measure recommended under the “Let’s Meet There” initiative, which was launched in June by a coalition of travel industry businesses and organizations under the U.S. Travel’s umbrella. It is aimed at supporting the full and safe return of business travel and PMEs.
The safety measures are based upon The Scientific-Based Evidence for Conducting Safe and Healthy Professional Meetings and Events (PMEs) white paper from leading healthcare scientists at The Ohio State University. Aside from mask wearing, other measures in the white paper, which was released in June, include physical distancing, proper ventilation and airflow, disinfecting surfaces and adhering to safe food and beverage procedures, among others.
“[These measures] ensure a safe return to large-scale, in-person PMEs,” Dow said. “The authors note how PMEs differ from other large gatherings in that they offer a stronger mitigation capability through layers of trusted safety measures, including vaccination and wearing masks, in a controlled environment.”
Dow added that U.S. Travel strongly encourages Americans to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated.
“It’s the fastest path to normalcy for all,” he said.