How new CDC recommendations affect western Wisconsin

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:42 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends both vaccinated and unvaccinated people mask up indoors in certain places.

Fortunately for Eau Claire County residents, they don’t yet live in one of those areas.

That could change depending on what happens with COVID-19.

The agency said people in places with “high” or “substantial” virus transmission rates should wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.

“This action by the CDC I think is well within what we should be doing,” UW-Eau Claire Microbiology Professor Emeritus Dr. Lloyd Turtinen said.

He called the viruses’ Delta variant a nasty mutation of COVID-19.

“This Delta variant is very efficient at binding to whole cells and also replicating and it’s producing more virus in an individual than the original strain of virus,” he said.

Turtinen said a higher viral load means someone has more COVID-19 to spread.

“It’s estimated by scientists that it produces about 1000 times more virus per person,” he said. “So now you have more virus that can be spread and other people can catch it.”

One of the greatest fears is the virus producing a new variant that makes fully vaccinated sick or potentially kills them.

Turtinen said the key to stopping that is getting more people vaccinated. That would make it harder for the virus to reproduce.

“The virus is trying to protect itself from our immune response,” he said. “And so if the virus has no place to replicated, no person to replicate in, then it can’t do that. So we need to stop the replication.”

He said the way to do that is get 70-80 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

In the mean time, he said he agrees with the CDC’s recommendations.

Though CDC guidelines don’t recommend masking in Eau Claire County, Marshfield Medical Center Eau Claire nurse practitioner Neeka Koepl said people should mask up anyways.

“With the new evidence, I feel that, you know, in a public health sense you’re almost obligated to do your part and that means wearing a mask and becoming vaccinated if you haven’t already,” she said.

Turtinen said while there are breakthrough infections, fully vaccinated people are well protected against the Delta variant since the vaccine greatly improves ones immune response to the virus.

Pfizer also announced Wednesday studies show a third COVID-19 shot for those who received its vaccine may help better protect against the Delta variant. The CDC and FDA are not recommending it yet.

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