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The big picture: Presentation slides from the agency leaked Thursday night showed that unpublished research indicated that the Delta variant causes more severe illness in unvaccinated people and spreads as easily as chickenpox.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

19 hours ago - Health

We're the architects of our own COVID destiny

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

We're almost certainly going to have to live with the coronavirus, in some form, for the foreseeable future. But what that means will be shaped in large part by what we do now.

Why it matters: More than half of the world — and a substantial portion of Americans — remains unvaccinated. Getting these rates up could mean the difference between the virus becoming a back-burner nuisance, or something that continues to define our lives for years to come.

19 hours ago - Health

Long COVID: A disabling disease

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Millions of Americans are still suffering from a wide spectrum of symptoms long after they've recovered from their original coronavirus infections, and it's very unclear what the disease's trajectory is — or even how many people are affected.

What we're watching: We still don't have a good grasp on how susceptible vaccinated people are to long COVID. If the condition remains a threat even for the vaccinated, that could shape the risks people are willing to take in the future.

19 hours ago - Health

America has fallen behind on vaccinations

Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The U.S. has fallen from the top of the world's list of most-vaccinated countries, largely due to the substantial percentage of Americans who don't want the vaccine.

What we're watching: Vaccine mandates are becoming much more common in the U.S., and children under 12 will likely become eligible for vaccines within the next few months — both of which should help boost the vaccination rate here.