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A storefront sign in Los Angeles reminds people masks are for everyone. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

About 74% of 469 COVID-19 cases associated with large gatherings held in Barnstable County, Mass., from July 3 to 17 were among fully vaccinated people, according to data released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The data bolsters emerging evidence that vaccinated people have high viral loads and may transmit the Delta variant as easily as those who are unvaccinated.

Be smart: Despite mild breakthrough cases appearing more common than previously thought, "vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent severe illness and death," the report emphasizes.

The big picture: Presentation slides from the agency leaked Thursday night showed that unpublished research indicated that the Delta variant causes more severe illness in unvaccinated people and spreads as easily as chickenpox.

  • On Tuesday, the CDC recommended people should wear masks in indoor public settings in areas where COVID-19 transmission is high or substantial regardless of vaccination status.

What they found: Among the vaccinated with a breakthrough infection in Barnstable County, nearly 80% reported mild signs or symptoms, with the most common being cough, headache, sore throat, myalgia and fever.

  • The people reported being in densely packed indoor and outdoor events at venues that included bars, restaurants, guest houses and rental homes.
  • Five people were hospitalized, including one patient, who was middle-aged, unvaccinated, and had multiple underlying medical conditions. The remaining four adults were fully vaccinated, varied in age and, two had underlying medical conditions.
  • As of July 27, no deaths were reported.
  • A majority of the cases occurred in men with a median age of 40, but is likely due to the health department's sampling from the public events, which were marketed to adult male participants.

What they're saying: "This finding is concerning and was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC’s updated mask recommendation," CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Friday.

  • "The masking recommendation was updated to ensure the vaccinated public would not unknowingly transmit virus to others, including their unvaccinated or immunocompromised loved ones," she added.

Go deeper

Sep 15, 2021 - Health

NIH launches massive project to study long COVID

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The National Institute of Health is launching a nationwide series of studies with as many as 40,000 people to research the long-term effects of COVID-19.

Why it matters: COVID symptoms that last more than four weeks, usually referred to as long COVID, have become an emerging public health concern as researchers do not know the cause.

23 hours ago - Health

1 in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC and U.S. Census Bureau; Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The U.S. has reached a grim pandemic milestone: More than 1 in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19, according to the latest available data.

Why it matters: The rising death toll highlights the continued effects of the Delta variant and the ongoing struggle to get Americans vaccinated.

By the numbers: The total number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in the United States is 665,496 as of 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, according to reporting by Johns Hopkins University.

  • 30.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. involved individuals ages 85 and older as of Wednesday, despite only making up 2% of cases and an equal portion of the population.
Sep 15, 2021 - Health

Pfizer says data suggests COVID vaccine boosters are warranted

A nurse administering a booster shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 19 in Pasadena, Calif. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer told the FDA Wednesday that data from its clinical trials suggests a third shot of its coronavirus vaccine may be necessary six months after the second dose because of waning efficacy.

Why it matters: The FDA's advisory committee on Friday is expected to review Pfizer's clinical trials and other supporting and conflicting data on coronavirus booster shots and make recommendations on whether more Americans 16 years and older should receive an extra dose.