Check COVID transmission levels in your county and CDC mask updates

THE CDC has updated its mask guidance due to a surge in new COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the delta variant as the dominant variant of the virus. Here are some things to know.

So what's the guidance?

The CDC is recommending that even vaccinated individuals wear masks in public indoors in parts of the U.S. where COVID is surging, specifically if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.  View the CDC map here to find out the status of your county. The agency also recommends that everyone in schools (K-12) wear masks regardless of vaccination status. 
COUNTY-BY-COUNTY BREAKDOWN (As of Sept. 13, 2:58 p.m.) - CDC RECOMMENDS THAT VACCINATED PEOPLE WEAR A MASK INDOORS IN PUBLIC FOR SUBSTANTIAL AND HIGH AREAS
NEW YORK:
BRONX - HIGH
DUTCHESS - HIGH
KINGS (BROOKLYN) - HIGH
NASSAU - HIGH
NEW YORK (MANHATTAN) - HIGH
ORANGE - HIGH
PUTNAM - HIGH
QUEENS - HIGH
RICHMOND (STATEN ISLAND) - HIGH
ROCKLAND- HIGH
SUFFOLK - HIGH
SULLIVAN - HIGH
ULSTER - HIGH
WESTCHESTER - HIGH
NEW JERSEY:
ATLANTIC - HIGH
BERGEN - HIGH 
BURLINGTON - HIGH
CAMDEN - HIGH
CAPE MAY COUNTY - HIGH
CUMBERLAND - HIGH
ESSEX - HIGH
GLOUCESTER - HIGH
HUDSON - HIGH
HUNTERDON - HIGH
MERCER - HIGH
MIDDLESEX - HIGH
MONMOUTH - HIGH
MORRIS - HIGH
OCEAN - HIGH
PASSAIC - HIGH
SALEM - HIGH
SOMERSET - HIGH
SUSSEX -  HIGH
UNION - HIGH
WARREN - HIGH
CONNECTICUT
FAIRFIELD - SUBSTANTIAL
HARTFORD - SUBSTANTIAL
LITCHFIELD - HIGH
MIDDLESEX - SUBSTANTIAL
NEW HAVEN - HIGH
NEW LONDON - HIGH
TOLLAND - SUBSTANTIAL
WINDHAM - HIGH

So, I have to follow these guidelines in the tri-state area?

These are not mandates, they are recommendations based on data.  It is up to local governments to pass requirements for wearing masks indoors in public.  New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, broadly speaking, currently don't have those requirements for vaccinated individuals on a state level - with some exceptions.  This could change in the future. However, individuals can always wear masks in any situation if they choose. 

Why the change?

The U.S. has seen a recent surge in cases fueled by a new form of the virus called the delta variant.  This variant is much more contagious than past variants. Most of these cases are among unvaccinated people, but some vaccinated individuals have been infected.

Wait, vaccinated people can still get COVID?

Yes, these are called 'breakthrough' infections and are very rare, according to the CDC.  No vaccine is 100% effective - including the COVID-19 vaccines.  However, they are still incredibly effective at preventing infection and reducing the severity of illness if a person gets infected.  

But if I'm vaccinated can I spread the virus?

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says vaccinated people “have the potential to spread that virus to others.”  However, the agency says vaccinated individuals represent a very small amount of total transmission. 
Parts of this article were written with Associated Press wire reports.