Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is seen at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss the ongoing federal response to COVID-19 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC , 11 May. 2021.
Greg Nash | Swimming pool | Reuters
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky defended the agency’s decision to lift its mask guidelines last week for people fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, as state and local health officials grapple with whether or not to follow suit.
“This was not permission to throw off masks everywhere. This was really a science-driven, individual assessment of your risk,” Walensky said Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, confirmed the guidelines while appearing on CBS’s “Face The Nation” later in the morning.
“There is an accumulation of data showing the effectiveness of the vaccines in the real world,” Fauci said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines Thursday and say it is safe for fully vaccinated Americans to remove their masks in most environments, whether outdoors or indoors. It is the first time in more than a year that the federal government has encouraged the disposal of masks, and it marks a major turning point for the pandemic.
“Right now, the data, the science, is showing us that it is safe for vaccinated people to take off their masks. I, as the CDC director, promised the American people that I would convey that science to you if I knew. and that’s what I did on Thursday, ”Walensky said.
The agency’s recommendation has been criticized as being too ambiguous or hasty. It’s also not mandatory, so states, municipalities and businesses can choose whether or not to follow it. There’s also no definitive way to keep track of who got a vaccine, and many places will have to work on some sort of honor system.
“We ask people to be honest with themselves,” Walensky said. “If they have been vaccinated and they are not wearing a mask, they are safe. If they have not been vaccinated and they are not wearing a mask, they are not safe.”
Some states and companies have already decided to enforce mask mandates. New Jersey and Hawaii will ask people to keep wearing masks indoors. Some retailers, including Target, Gap, Home Depot, and Ulta Beauty, have also said they will maintain pandemic protocols.
“Critical workers are still being forced to play mask police for unvaccinated customers and refuse to follow local COVID security measures. Should they become vaccination police now?” Said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. in a statement shared with The Washington City Times on Friday.
Others have praised the decision, saying it could encourage more people to get vaccinated against the virus, as the rate of injections given has slowed in recent weeks.
Illinois, Connecticut, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, Minnesota, Nevada, Kentucky and Oregon have all said they would relax their mask rules. Texas had lifted its mask mandates before the CDC’s recommendation.
In addition, officials from New York and California, two of the hardest-hit states, are currently reviewing the CDC’s changes and have not yet issued advice, meaning the mandates are still in effect.
Fauci said the CDC will release in the coming weeks with more clarity on when masks are appropriate.
More than 156 million Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine since Friday, according to the CDC. According to the agency, about 121 million have been fully vaccinated.