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Officials with the World Health Organization have encouraged those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to continue to wear masks in certain situations, citing the dangers the delta variant poses to those who are still unvaccinated.
The comments by the assistant director-general come as countries around the world are imposing new health restrictions to combat the spread of the delta variant — a more contagious mutation of the virus that officials suspect is 50 to 60% more contagious than the alpha variant of COVID-19, which was first observed in the U.K.
Despite the threat posed by the delta variant, officials say the COVID-19 vaccines are holding up well. Moderna on Tuesday announced that lab trials show its vaccine works well in protecting users from variant strains.
However, for countries where vaccines aren't widely available, the WHO warns that a single breakthrough COVID-19 infection could result in more community spread of the virus. In countries like India and Brazil, where vaccines have only covered less than 23% of the population, daily case rates are still extremely high, according to Johns Hopkins.
In May, the CDC said those who are fully vaccinated could safely go without masks and social distancing. For those people who are unvaccinated, the CDC still recommends face coverings and social distancing. As of Tuesday, that guidance remains in place.
However, some local health departments, like the Los Angeles County Department of Health, have issued "strong" recommendations for residents to take maximum precautions as scientists continue to research the delta variant's spread.
"Until we better understand how and to who the delta variant is spreading, everyone should focus on maximum protection," the department said in a statement.