SAN ANTONIO — The Centers for Disease Control recommended Tuesday that people living in communities where the coronavirus is quickly spreading should wear masks indoors, even if they're fully vaccinated.
It also recommended universal masking for students, visitors, and faculty inside K-12 schools.
"Even if you're vaccinated, you're not invincible," Christus Health's Dr. Marisa Emmons said. "You can still catch the virus, which means you can spread it to others - even if you don't develop symptoms."
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Tuesday new data indicates vaccinated people who catch the Delta variant are as contagious as unvaccinated people who catch coronavirus.
It's one of the key reasons, Walensky said, that vaccinated people should wear masks indoors.
Emmons noted that thousands of children will return to school next month, ineligible for a coronavirus vaccine. It appears more children are catching the Delta variant than caught the original, "Wild type" strain of the coronavirus.
"We know they have less risk, as far as hospitalizations and deaths, compared to our older population," Emmons said. "But we also have homes where grandparents are living there or mom and dad are getting treated for cancer."
Some immunocompromised people, such as cancer patients, cannot take the vaccine.
"They're a part of our communities. They're our neighbors, our friends, our brothers and sisters," MedFirst Baptist's Dr. Monica Chopra said. "They warrant our help in this situation."
Chopra and Emmons each say masks offer strong protection against the more contagious Delta variant. Emmons says it is still incredibly difficult for one masked person to pass the virus to another masked person.
"Even if we're wrong, wearing a mask doesn't harm anyone," Chopra said. "It is such a simple thing to do and to ask to protect ourselves, our friends, and neighbors."
"If I only have two things that are going to help me from death, dying, and suffering - one being the vaccine and the other being a mask - I've chosen to do both," Chopra said.
"I know people are saying, 'Look, I'm done protecting my neighbor. I'm ready to go back to normal. That's on them,'" Emmons added. "They do need to continue taking extra precautions, so I hope they're still doing the drive-up grocery shopping and those sorts of things. But they still need to get out and interact... it's those cases where the rest of us, if we take a few precautions right now, can help protect everyone."
The CDC's guidance applies to all counties in the San Antonio metropolitan area, except Edwards county.