MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota students and teachers may be back in masks again this fall as new COVID cases surge.

The Centers for Disease Control announced Tuesday that fully vaccinated Americans in communities with substantial or high COVID transmission should once again wear face masks in some indoor public settings. Most of Minnesota is currently considered to be in a moderate risk.

(credit: CBS)

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The CDC also recommended that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status, in its updated masking guidance. MDH officials tell WCCO they are meeting with partners this afternoon to possibly announce what this means for guidance for the state of Minnesota and Minnesota schools.

The announcement comes as the highly contagious Delta variant has caused a rise in cases COVID nationwide, including some breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated.

State health leaders say we’re currently in the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” as the much more contagious Delta variant spreads quickly throughout the country and here in Minnesota.

Minnesota has one of the higher vaccination rates in the country right now, but Minnesota Department of Health commissioner Jan Malcolm says more Minnesotans still need to be vaccinated because she said there are a few pockets of vulnerability in our state they are concerned about.

The CDC says the vaccine is the best protector against the virus and the new variant.

There are breakthrough cases in Minnesota, where vaccinated people still contracted COVID, but infectious disease director Kris Ehresmann says they are extremely rare.

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“We have had a total of 3,886 vaccine breakthrough cases documented in Minnesota among over 3 million fully vaccinated Minnesotans. That’s a breakthrough rate of less than 1%, and that’s remarkable. It’s actually less than one-tenth of a percent,” Ehresmann said.

Dr. Hannah Lichtsinn, a pediatrician and mother of children ages 5 and 7, applauded the CDC’s move Tuesday.

“I think it is so important that they do it and they do it right now,” Lichtsinn said.

Lichtsinn says returning to wearing masks is important because the Delta variant is far more potent and even children are getting very sick.

“Just like we see long COVID in adults, we see children with long-term effects, including decreased exercise ability, decreased cognitive functions, even after having a mild illness,” Lichtsinn said, adding that if her children were old enough to get the vaccine now she would do so “in a heartbeat.”

“The vaccine is the best thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children,” she said. “I really believe that everyone should be back to wearing a mask in indoor public spaces and even in crowded outdoor spaces.”

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Even if the MDH implements the CDC’s recommendations in Minnesota, there will not be another mask mandate. Gov. Tim Walz was stripped of those emergency powers, so any recommendation from the health department would be just that — a recommendation.

Esme Murphy