South Dakota health care professionals explain latest CDC mask guidance


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Federal health officials reversed some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing them indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.

According to the CDC, 21 counties in South Dakota are considered to have high or substantial spread, while 45 counties are considered moderate to low spread. I spoke with doctors from Sanford and Monument about the new guidance.

South Dakota health care professionals say most COVID cases and hospitalizations are among unvaccinated people.

“The delta variant’s characteristics, that even though still a very small number of infections and even smaller numbers of individuals who are vaccinated or hospitalized, it does appear that there’s data that in rare occurrences, a person who has been vaccinated may be able to transmit the delta variant,” said Joseph Segeleon, vice president medical officer of Sanford Children’s hospital.

That’s what prompted the CDC to revise its guidance.

“In those communities where you’re seeing a rising number, so a larger number, 10% or higher positivity rates, the risk of breakthrough infection to those currently vaccinated is real,” said Shankar Kurra, vice president of medical affairs at Monument Health.

Shankar says a breakthrough case is when a vaccinated person gets the virus. The cases are usually mild.

“What CDC wants to do is prevent transmission, so if someone who’s vaccinated gets a breakthrough infection. Unfortunately with the Delta variant, we’re figuring out that they can become an agent to transmit the virus,” he said.

“I think whether you wear a mask is a personal choice that an individual takes, and you should do so based on the information out there,” Segeleon said.

And that information changes frequently.

“This pandemic, first off, who would have predicted it? And secondly, its had its own unique characteristics, and we know that things change. Data changes and recommendations change based on data,” Segeleon said.

The CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

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