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5 Places Experts Say Wear a Mask

To protect against the Delta variant, here's where you should be masking up this summer.

Well, "hot vax summer" isn't quite working out as planned. Driven by the Delta variant, cases of COVID-19 are rising in all 50 states and have tripled nationwide in the last two weeks. The spread is mostly among the unvaccinated, although "breakthrough" infections—people who test positive for COVID despite being fully vaccinated—are also being reported. The sudden upswing alarmed officials in Los Angeles County, who announced the reinstatement of an indoor face mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Other areas have expressed a reluctance to follow suit. And officially, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn't changed its guidance that fully vaccinated people don't need to wear a mask indoors. But some vaccinated people are choosing to out of an abundance of caution. Here are five places where experts say it's wise to wear a mask right now. Read on to find out more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.


In Schools

Teacher and children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised that all students older than 2, along with staff, wear masks at school, whether they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 or not. "Given what we know about low rates of in-school transmission when proper prevention measures are used, together with the availability of effective vaccines for those age 12 years and up," the AAP says, "the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks in almost all circumstances."


In Stores

mask wearing

On Tuesday, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force urged all Missouri residents, vaccinated or unvaccinated, to resume wearing masks in public spaces, including grocery stores and businesses. The task force said the region is "bracing for a third wave of COVID-19 that could exceed the death and serious illness experienced last winter." (And Missouri is far from the only state facing a rise in cases combined with a low vaccination rate.)

"When we first initiated masking and social distancing guidelines, the goal was to wear masks for protection until a vaccine was available," said Dr. Clay Dunagan, acting head of the task force. "The vaccine is available, but unfortunately the vaccination rate in our community has not been high enough to prevent spread of the Delta variant. We now need to return to masking to combat this new wave of infections."


In Crowded Outdoor Settings

Wake Forest, NC/United States- 10/15/2020: North Carolina voters stand in very long lines to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting.

"In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings," says the CDC. However, the agency notes: "In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated."


In Restaurants and Gyms

Group of people doing fitness in a gym wearing a mask, coronavirus concept

Last week, David Wohl, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the Wall Street Journal that he recommended wearing a mask, even if you're vaccinated, in most public indoor settings and being extra cautious in higher-risk settings such as restaurants and gyms. "I feel a little bit uneasy eating indoors unless there's a good amount of distance between tables and the servers are wearing masks," he said.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Prevent Dementia, Says Dr. Sanjay Gupta


On Public Transportation

woman sitting inside airplane wearing KN95 FFP2 protective mask

This one isn't a recommendation—it's still a rule, whether you're vaccinated or not. "Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations," says the CDC. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more