Riverhead High School senior Imani Thomas gets her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Peconic Bay Medical Center April 7. Courtesy photo.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday afternoon issued a health advisory to public health practitioners and clinicians about “the urgent need to increase COVID-19 vaccination coverage” to prevent surges in new infections.

The advisory came after the CDC announced revised guidance on mask-wearing. The agency is now recommending that all people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public indoor settings in geographic areas with high and substantial community transmission — 50 or more new cases per 100,000 population per week. The CDC is also recommending all students, staff and visitors in K-12 schools wear masks indoors, also regardless of vaccination status. The revised guidance is based on new data indicating that fully vaccinated people who become infected with the delta variant — “breakthrough infections” — can transmit the virus to others, the CDC said, even though they themselves may remain asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic.

The new guidance and the health advisory are both the result of the spread of the highly infectious delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. The delta variant is accelerating the spread of infection in the United States, the CDC said, accounting for more than 80% of new infections.

COVID-19 cases have increased over 300% nationally from June 19 to July 23, along with parallel increases in hospitalizations and deaths, the CDC said in the advisory.

Unvaccinated persons account for the majority of new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, the CDC said in the advisory. Overall, 82%) of counties with high COVID-19 incidence rates are found in communities with low vaccination coverage, the CDC said.

Vaccination is “the most effective strategy to prevent infection and severe disease,” the CDC said in the alert. Vaccines offer protection against the known currently circulating variants, the agency said.

“By limiting viral spread, vaccination also minimizes opportunities for the introduction of more infectious variants through random mutation. Mutations could produce future variants that are more virulent and capable of evading diagnostic and therapeutic tools or overcoming vaccine-induced immunity,” the CDC said.

>>>More COVID-19 coverage, data and updates

The CDC urges all clinicians to accelerate vaccination efforts, increase patient outreach and remind patients that vaccination is recommended for all persons age 12 and older — even for those with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Doctors should counsel all immunocompromised patients, including those who are fully vaccinated to follow all recommended prevention measures for unvaccinated persons. People who are immunocompromised may have reduced immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC said.

Public health officials should continue and increase efforts to reach and partner with communities to encourage and offer vaccinations, the CDC advisory said.

According to the advisory, public health jurisdictions should continue to monitor community transmission levels, variant, and vaccination coverage levels, and focus vaccine efforts on populations with low coverage.

Public health jurisdictions should communicate vaccination coverage, variant, and transmission levels to key partners, including the key information on risk associated with the B.1.617.2 (delta) variant, the advisory said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.