Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, defends abrupt shift in mask guidance

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The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took to the Sunday talk-show circuit to defend the agency’s abrupt decision to drastically relax its mask guidance for people that have received a coronavirus vaccine.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the shift in guidance was based on science and the declining number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus.

“Just in the last two weeks, we’ve had a lot of evolving science,” Dr. Walensky said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“If you are vaccinated, we are saying you are safe, you can take off your mask and you are not at risk of severe disease or hospitalization from COVID-19,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If you are not vaccinated, you are not safe. Please go get vaccinated or continue to wear your mask.”

The White House learned about the changes a day after members of the Senate Health Committee grilled Dr. Walensky last week over the CDC’s messaging on masks.

The change created some immediate confusion at the state and local level as officials adjusted to the new federal guidelines, which said fully vaccinated people could now safely go most places, indoors or outdoors, without a mask.

Dr. Walensky said more than a third of Americans have now been vaccinated and each day upwards of 2 million more people are getting a vaccine.

She urged businesses to give employees time off to get vaccinated and said children under the age of 12 should still wear a mask.

She said the CDC will update its guidance for schools before the new school year kicks off next fall.

“Everybody, as we are working towards opening up again after 16 months getting out of this pandemic, will need to understand what they need to do locally,” Dr. Walensky said. “And this was not permission to shed masks for everybody everywhere.”

“This was really a science-driven, individual assessment of your risk,” she said. “Right now, the data, the science shows us that it’s safe for vaccinated people to take off their masks. I, as the CDC director, promised the American people I would convey that science to you as we know it.”

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