Should you wear a mask in your county?

Also, here's which counties have the highest transmission rates

Photo of Angela Mulka

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance on Tuesday that states that fully vaccinated people should once again begin masking in places with high COVID-19 transmission rates. The CDC also said that all students, faculty and staff should wear masks in schools this fall, regardless of vaccination status.

Michigan announced Tuesday that the state would not follow this new guidance from the CDC. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is not planning on issuing a new mask order. The CDC's new recommendation follows recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor mask mandates amid the spike in COVID-19 infections. The nation is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Whitmer made this decision because "the nation knows more about COVID-19 than a year ago," and there are vaccines available. She says she is not anticipating another pandemic mandate in the near future or “maybe not ever.”

“The best way to stay safe is to get vaccinated. I'm really, strongly encouraging everyone to do just that,” Whitmer said, speaking after an affordable housing announcement in Detroit.

But what does the mask recommendation actually mean? Here's what you should know. 

First, the recommendation is back because of the delta variant, which has now become the dominant strain in the United States, and has been shown to be up to 60% more transmissible than the previously dominant Alpha strain.

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Find a COVID-19 vaccine near you.

Use Vaccines.gov to find a location near you, then call or visit their website to make an appointment.

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The CDC made the recommendation for people living where there is "substantial transmission" (or counties that have 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period) or "high transmission" (more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over seven days). According to the CDC, here is where all of the area counties fall in terms of transmission level:

Updated as of Monday, Aug. 9.

High

•    Alpena
•    Allegan
•    Baraga
•    Branch
•    Charlevoix
•    Delta
•    Gogebic
•    Hillsdale
•    Huron
•    Iosco
•    Jackson
•    Kalkaska
•    Montmorency
•    Newaygo
•    Ogemaw
•    St. Joseph
•    Van Buren

Substantial

•    Alcona
•    Antrim
•    Arenac
•    Barry
•    Bay
•    Berrien
•    Calhoun
•    Cass
•    Crawford
•    Eaton
•    Emmet
•    Genesee
•    Gladwin
•    Grand Traverse
•    Gratiot
•    Ingham
•    Ionia
•    Iron
•    Isabella
•    Kalamazoo
•    Kent
•    Lake
•    Lapeer
•    Leelanau
•    Lenawee
•    Livingston
•    Luce
•    Macomb
•    Manistee
•    Mason
•    Menominee
•    Midland
•    Monroe
•    Muskegon
•    Oakland
•    Ottawa
•    Presque Isle
•    Saginaw
•    Shiawassee
•    St. Clair
•    Tuscola
•    Washtenaw
•    Wayne

Moderate

•    Benzie
•    Cheboygan
•    Chippewa
•    Clare
•    Clinton
•    Dickinson
•    Houghton
•    Mackinac
•    Marquette
•    Mecosta
•    Missaukee
•    Montcalm
•    Oceana
•    Osceola
•    Oscoda
•    Otsego
•    Roscommon
•    Sanilac
•    Wexford

Low

•    Alger
•    Keweenaw
•    Ontonagon
•    Schoolcraft

Moderate counties don't yet have the recommendation for fully vaccinated people to mask indoors, but precautions should be taken when appropriate.

In addition, this recommendation is not a mandate, and fully vaccinated people are not required to wear masks, but rather strongly encouraged to do so when heading into indoor public places. The recommendation was made because new science has continued to emerge that shows those who are vaccinated could still be carrying higher levels of the virus than previously understood and have the potential to transmit the virus to others, per CNBC.

There is concern that the fall will bring a new surge of coronavirus cases due to the delta variant. The fall is when respiratory viruses like the flu are at their peak and it was during the fall last year that the pandemic hit another peak.

The delta variant has the capacity to use vaccinated hosts to transmit and infect others. While vaccines are still largely effective at preventing moderate to severe illness due to the coronavirus, mild breakthrough cases may appear and those who are vaccinated may also be asymptomatic.

Retailers in Michigan are recommending wearing masks, some requiring, even for vaccinated customers.

While cases of COVID-19 related to the delta variant are taking off, national retailers announced the week of Aug. 1 that they are taking steps to protect employees and stop the spread of the virus. 

Walmart is requiring indoor mask-wearing based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which includes fully vaccinated people wearing masks in public indoor settings in counties of substantial or high transmission.

"We will continue to follow the latest CDC guidance, which includes fully vaccinated people wearing masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission, effective immediately," according to a Walmart news release.

The Kroger Company is "strongly encouraging" all individuals, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a mask when in their stores and facilities. Kroger's current guidelines require unvaccinated employees to wear a mask and request that customers also do so.

Meijer asks that,”all customers who are not fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, wear a mask while they shop at our stores and maintain social distance. Subject to local, state and federal health and safety recommendations.”

Costco locations will follow the face mask regulations of the applicable state and local jurisdictions, according to its website. More recently, Costco ended its special hours for seniors and those with disabilities or compromised immune systems.

The delta variant is a mutation of the coronavirus that originated in India. It's the most contagious variant in the pandemic. It is more contagious than viruses such as Ebola and in terms of spreading is like chicken pox, according to an article in Detroit Free Press. Vaccinations offer good protection against the delta variant, but even people who are vaccinated can spread the disease to others that are not.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said wearing a mask is important for those with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions, at risk for severe illness, in vulnerable households or are unvaccinated.

As more stores keep updating their mask policies, we’ll update this story on the homepage.

Read Home Depot’s latest statement here.

Read Kroger’s latest statement here

Read Meijer’s latest statement here.

Read Target’s latest statement here.

Read Walmart’s latest statement here

Updates as of Aug. 9: 26 counties were upgraded from moderate to substantial. Those counties were Alcona, Antrim, Arenac, Bay, Berrien, Crawford, Eaton, Emmet, Genesee, Gladwin, Gratiot, Isabella, Kent, Lake, Lapeer, Leelanau, Lenawee, Luce, Manistee, Menominee, Midland, Monroe, Ottowa, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne. Additionally, eight counties were upgraded from substantial to high. Those counties were Allegan, Charlevoix, Delta, Jackson, Kalkaska, Montmorency, St. Joesph and Van Buren. Lastly, four counties were upgraded from moderate to high. Those four counties were Baraga, Gogebic, Newaygo and Ogemaw.