CDC Director Hints Masking May End but Will Resume if Cases Increase

Rochelle Walensky, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), left, and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, Tuesday, July 20, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky hinted Wednesday that masking may end but will resume if rising infections prevent President Biden from shutting down the virus.

Walensky said a key factor in changing the mask guidance is the hospitalization rate, though the science of transmission has not changed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Walensky said:

As we consider future metrics, which will be updated soon, we recognize the importance of not just cases, which continue to result in substantial or high community community transmission in over 97 percent of county’s in the country, but critically, medically severe diseases that leads to hospitalizations.

We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer. Our hospitals need to be able to take care of people with emergencies and strokes. Our emergency departments can’t be so overwhelmed that patients with emergent issues have to wait in line.

We are assessing the most important factors based on where we are in the pandemic, and will soon put guidance in place that is relevant and encourages prevention measures when they are most needed to protect public health and our hospitals.

We want to give people a break from things like mask wearing when these metrics are better, and then have the ability to reach for them should things worsen. If and when we update our guidance, we will communicate that clearly and it will be based on the data and the science.

Walensky’s fresh perspective on if or when masking guidance will change again comes after NBC News reported the CDC is expected to change the masking guidance in the coming week. NBC News noted the White House is worried the changing guidance may be viewed as a result of “political pressure on the agency.”

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