When COVID-19 vaccines started rolling out in January, thousands of North Texans waited in lines at mega centers across the region. In Collin County, officials used the McKinney ISD football stadium. Elsewhere, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and Texas Motor Speedway in Denton County served as mega centers.

Soon, fully vaccinated people were told by health officials they could go unmasked in rooms full of vaccinated strangers.

But now the masks are coming back.

On Tuesday, the CDC recommended that even fully vaccinated people need to wear a mask when inside buildings or spaces where local health officials are noting high and substantial levels of COVID-19 transmission.

Tweet from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on July 27, 2021.

Collin County fits in that category, and officials locally recommend people wear a mask when in public, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.

The CDC cited concerns over the delta variant of the coronavirus when announcing the latest masking recommendations on Tuesday. Health officials say the variant can cause “breakthrough” infections, meaning people who are fully vaccinated can become infected by the variant.

A Collin County Health Care Services spokesperson said three COVID-19 cases were caused by the delta variant.

Surrounding counties like Dallas and Denton are in the red on the CDC’s map tracking the severity of the COVID-19 spread. Across Texas, confirmed COVID-19 cases have been on the rise this summer, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard tracking cases and deaths. As of Wednesday, there were just over 1,000 active cases in Collin County. 

Collin County has not issued its own mask mandate for local businesses. Not that officials here could even if they felt it necessary. In May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting county and city governments from enforcing mask mandates. But that does not mean Collin County health officials believe people should be out in public without a mask covering the nose and mouth — particularly in crowded spaces.

“In large gatherings, an amusement park or a baseball game, even if you’re vaccinated, we are still recommending that individuals do their best to mask and social distance when possible,” CCHCS spokesman Darrell Willis II said Wednesday morning. “We agree individuals should take the advice of the CDC and the [state health department].”

Willis added that the county will not engage in any enforcement of these recommendations. In this way, Collin County officials are doing what they have done throughout the pandemic. 

“Collin County decided it was up to people to make the best decision themselves,” Willis said of wearing masks.

Even as the Collin County’s vaccination rates outpace those rates statewide, the county is actively engaged in vaccinating people.

On Monday, the county enacted its plan to use mobile vaccination teams to reach home-bound people or those who cannot otherwise reach a local pharmacy or doctor’s office to receive a vaccine here.

At no direct cost, people living in longterm care facilities, who are home-bound and even local businesses can request a mobile team deliver and administer vaccines to people who want them. The county is paying for this with grants, according to a news release.

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Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney is a freelance journalist based in the Dallas area. His work has appeared in the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Observer, Denton Record-Chronicle, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and the Las Vegas...