Washington (CNN)Top federal health officials have debated whether to issue new guidance on masks and are close to announcing their decision as the highly contagious Delta variant fuels new outbreaks in the United States.
Top officials huddled on Sunday night to go over the new data and evidence regarding the transmissibility of the variant and breakthrough cases, according to a person familiar with the talks. An announcement could come as soon as Tuesday, although one person cautioned it could happen later this week. The latest
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Two months ago, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated mask guidance saying most who are fully vaccinated could go without masks indoors, the guidance moved so quickly that administration officials were informed less than a day before. This time, the process is moving in a more methodical way as they decide how to proceed.CDC did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.White House officials have repeatedly said it would be up to the CDC whether to change official guidance and that they would follow the lead of health and medical experts. The renewed administration discussions about revisiting mask recommendations revolve around what messages on masking the White House should offer, and what guidance the CDC should issue, sources familiar with the matter have told CNN.Read MoreDr. Anthony Fauci, the President’s chief Covid-19 medical adviser and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday that revising mask guidance for vaccinated Americans was under “active consideration” and that he was part of the discussion. Fauci also said the US was “going in the wrong direction” as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise, particularly among unvaccinated Americans.President Joe Biden said last week that two dozen members of his Covid response team were examining the surge in cases and hospitalizations among the unvaccinated and determining whether new mask recommendations were necessary.Officials in several places, including Los Angeles, have been forced to return to earlier requirements on masks because of surging Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations among Americans who have refused to get vaccinated.The White House this week announced it was maintaining existing coronavirus travel restrictions amid surging cases triggered by the Delta variant. The Biden administration recently extended non-essential travel restrictions for the US northern and southern borders until August 21. The US has been limiting non-essential travel along both borders since the start of the pandemic and extending those restrictions on a monthly basis.This story has been updated with additional background information.