Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in an interview with Healthline published Friday that the country can stop the Chinese coronavirus “in its tracks” if everyone wears a mask until more are vaccinated.
Healthline asked the CDC director if she agrees with former CDC director Tom Frieden’s estimation that “we could get to 200,000 new cases a day.”
“I’ve seen modeling data. Some of the modeling data do go up that high. Not all of them do. Do I think it’s possible? Yes, I think it’s possible,” she said.
“What I do want to reiterate, though, is a unified approach as a country would stop this [pandemic] in its tracks. We know what we need to do to stop this virus. It can fall short of many of the things we had to do last year. Do I think we all need to stay home right now? I do not,” she continued before pitching masks as a crucial mitigation strategy.
“But if we are able to get the vast majority of people vaccinated and if, in the meantime until they are fully vaccinated, we had everybody wearing masks, we can stop this in its tracks and really be in a way better place in a relatively short period of time,” she added.
It remains unclear why she believes this action would stop the virus “in its tracks,” given the mass spread of the virus last year, particularly in heavily restricted blue states which had mask mandates in place for months on end.
Her remarks follow the CDC’s controversial July 27 guidance stating that vaccinated individuals should wear a mask in areas of high transmission. On Friday, the CDC provided some of the data on which it based that decision — primarily a batch of a few hundred breakthrough cases in Massachusetts, none of which resulted in death.
Walensky’s call for more masking also follows the revelation of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s emails, which show him doubting the efficacy of drugstore masks.
“The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material,” he wrote in a February 2020 email.
“It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you,” he added, ultimately recommending Sylvia Burwell, President of American University and former U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, not to wear one.