CDC's new mask guidelines, Simone Biles discusses putting mental health first: 5 Things podcast

·9 min read

On Wednesday's episode of the 5 Things podcast: The CDC has issued new guidance urging even vaccinated people to put their masks back on. Plus, Simone Biles withdraws from multiple Olympic gymnastics events to focus on her mental health, strong winds and storms may further spread wildfires, the Supreme Court has a low approval rating and skywatchers get a double feature meteor shower.

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning, I'm Taylor Wilson, and this is 5 Things you need to know Wednesday the 28th of July, 2021. Today, making sense of new mask guidelines. Plus Simone Biles steps away from multiple competitions in Tokyo, and more.

Taylor Wilson:

Here are some of the top headlines:

  1. At least two people are dead and seven injured after a chemical leak at a Houston area plant. The incident involved an acetic acid leak, and it's not clear how it began.

  2. Actor Bob Odenkirk collapsed on the set of his show Better Call Saul in New Mexico. It's not known why he collapsed, but he was sent to an area hospital.

  3. And police in Nicaragua have arrested another opposition leader. Jose Antonio Peraza is a political science professor and the head of an opposition alliance. He's the 22nd opposition leader arrested along with seven detained potential presidential candidates. President Daniel Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term in November elections.

Taylor Wilson:

The CDC is again recommending masking up, even if you're vaccinated. Health officials made the plea for indoor gatherings on Wednesday if you live in an area with high COVID-19 transmission rates. They were citing new worrisome findings related to the Delta variant of COVID-19. CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky:

We acted with the data that we had at the time. The data that we had at the time, the country mostly have alpha. Alpha among breakthrough vaccinated infections was not being transmitted to other people. The data that we have right now is different. We have a country that is full of Delta. Delta is a more transmissible virus, and the new data that we have is that Delta is able in those rare breakthrough infections to be transmitted to others. The most important thing that we need to say right now is we have a lot of this country that has a lot of viral burden. That's driven a lot by people who, mostly by people who are unvaccinated. Those are the people who are driving the new infections. But at an individual level, we believe everybody should be wearing a mask in those areas of substantial and high transmission.

Taylor Wilson:

To find out if you live in a high transmissibility area, you can head to cdc.gov. The CDC is also now recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors inside K-12 schools. That move aligns closely with guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. They recommended this month that anyone older than the age of two be required to wear a mask. The Delta variant now makes up more than 80% of COVID 19 cases around the country, and while vaccinated people are still almost always safe from serious illness or death, they can still get infected and get sick. And crucially, Walensky said Tuesday that according to new science, fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections from Delta have a similar viral load to infections in unvaccinated people. That means the fully vaccinated are more likely to spread the virus with the Delta variant than the original coronavirus. But they still don't spread COVID as efficiently as unvaccinated people. Health reporter Elizabeth Weise has more.

Elizabeth Weise:

What's changed is that vaccinations have slowed. I think there was real hope that we were going to get to 80% vaccination rates, or at least 70 pretty quickly, we could go back to normal right away if everybody would get vaccinated. And the other thing was, we now have this Delta variant, which is wildly infective, much more infective. And so CDC is saying, "Huh, now that we've got this variant that we know can be up to 1000 times more infective in folks, does wearing masks make sense?" They're looking at the data they have, and that data will change over time. So what they say today might be different from what they say in two months, because we will know more.

Elizabeth Weise:

CDC hasn't changed its guidance yet. But when you talk to people who are kind of on the ground, and when you talk to doctors and epidemiologists and virologists, they say, "Yeah, I'm wearing a mask." There are two reasons they're wearing masks. They don't want to get even a mild or asymptomatic case of COVID. One, because they just don't want to have it, two, because they might infect others. As to how long a new mask mandate might last either locally or nationally, it's impossible to know. People might want to think twice about large events with a lot of people close together, unmasked. You have to wear a mask on a plane. I took a flight for the first time recently, and I wore a mask the whole way. Everybody did. But it does seem like a lot of Americans are not as concerned.

Taylor Wilson:

More than 611,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, part of nearly 4.2 million COVID deaths around the world.

Taylor Wilson:

Simone Biles will not compete in the Olympic Gymnastics all-around final at the Tokyo Olympics. Biles is the defending gold medalist in that competition, and her withdrawal comes a day after she pulled out of the team final after just one event on Tuesday. USA Gymnastics said Biles will not compete so she can focus on her mental health and will continue to be evaluated to determine whether or not she would compete in event finals next week. Here's Biles on her decision.

Simone Biles:

No injury, thankfully. And that's why I took a step back, because I didn't want to do something silly out there and get injured. So I thought it was best if these girls took over and did the rest of the job, which they absolutely did. They're Olympic silver medalists now, and they should be really proud of themselves for how well they did last minute having to go in. And it's been really stressful, this Olympic games. I think just as a whole, not having an audience, there are a lot of different variables going into it. It's been a long week. It's been a long Olympic process. It's been a long year. So just a lot of different variables, and I think we're just a little bit too stressed out. But we should be out here having fun, and sometimes that's not the case.

Simone Biles:

I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a back seat, work on my mindfulness, and I knew that the girls would do an absolutely great job and I didn't want to risk the team a medal for my screw ups, because they worked way too hard for that. So I just decided that those girls need to go and do the rest of the competition.

Simone Biles:

Yeah. I say put mental health first, because if you don't then you're not going to enjoy your sport and you're not going to succeed as much as you want to. So it's okay sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are, rather than just battle through it.

Taylor Wilson:

Biles has been increasingly open about her struggles with mental health. She's expressed discomfort at being the biggest star of the Olympics, after Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps retired. And she said that she too was sexually abused by former team doctor Larry Nassar. In a statement, USA Gymnastics said, "We wholeheartedly support Simone's decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows yet again why she is a role model for so many."

Taylor Wilson:

Strong winds and possible thunderstorms are in the forecast Wednesday and could make work harder for firefighters battling wildfires in the west. California's largest, the Dixie fire, was only 23% contained as of Tuesday and as burned three dozen structures, while threatening more than 10,000 others, according to Cal Fire. It's one of 79 large fires burning some 1.5 million acres around the country, mostly in the west, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. But the effects of the fires are being felt all over the country. Some east coast cities saw hazy, smoky skies this week, and air quality alerts have been issued in parts of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest.

Taylor Wilson:

Well, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents can agree on one thing. No one particularly loves the Supreme Court. The High Court's approval rating dipped to its lowest point in four years, according to a Gallup Poll out on Wednesday. Only 49% approved of the job Justices are doing, down from 58% a year ago. But the Court found all political views mostly agreed on relatively low approval ratings. 51% of both Democrats and Republicans approved of the court, and 46% of Independents. Those numbers looked a lot different during the late Obama administration in 2015, after the court legalized same-sex marriage and upheld Obamacare. That year 76% of Democrats, and only 18% of Republicans approved. By 2018, as President Donald Trump began nominating justices to the Court, those numbers basically completely flipped. 72% of Republicans approved, compared with 38% of Democrats. Recent numbers might reflect the relatively small number of high-profile decisions in the term that ended this month.

Taylor Wilson:

Sky watchers may get a rare double feature of a meteor shower on Wednesday night. The showers are known as the Southern Delta Aquarids, and the Alpha Capricornids, and both will peak Wednesday night into early Thursday morning. The Aquarids will produce 12 faint meteors per hour on average in the Southern sky, while the Capricornids will offer up about five an hour. But some of those will be bright enough to light up the whole sky. According to earthsky.org, an hour or two before dawn is usually the best time to watch the showers.

Taylor Wilson:

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, your smart speaker device, or wherever you find your audio. And if you have a second, please drop us five stars and a review on Apple Podcasts. Thanks as always to Shannon Green and Claire Thornton for their great work on the show. 5 Things is part of the USA TODAY Network.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: CDC's mask guidelines, Simone Biles on mental health: 5 Things podcast