The CDC Changes Mask Recommendations…Again
In what will undoubtedly be another political nail into the credibility coffin of public health, the CDC again reverses its mask guidelines. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday cited an increase in COVID-19 cases from the delta variant for the changes, which also recommends some vaccinated individuals resume wearing masks in certain situations to protect against COVID-19. “In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals wear a mask in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of Delta and protect others,” the agency wrote ahead of a briefing.
“In recent days, I have seen new scientific data from sequenced outbreak investigations showing that the delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that cause COVID-19,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters over a call. “Information on the delta variant from several states and other countries indicate that in rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others.”
Todays, guidelines are a reversal from the CDC May guidelines that allowed for vaccinated individuals to go without a mask. When updating their guidelines in May, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “We have all longed for this moment. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
Another CDC reversal that is likely to irritate parents and do nothing to slow the spread of the Delta Variant is the recommendation that all k-12 students and staff return to school in the fall wearing masks. This recommendation is for all regardless of vaccination status. Since the start of the pandemic, it has been known that COVID-19 is less severe in school-age children. However, most of the guidelines have been geared towards them, including closing schools, public parks, and summer camps.
These reversals do not help the image of the CDC and other public health departments.
They also don’t help the approval rating of President Joe Biden. Last week President participated Wednesday in the second CNN town hall of his presidency, taking questions from anchor Don Lemon and local residents in Cincinnati. During the third exchange of questions with Lemon, Biden said that since the vaccines “cover” the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus: “You’re not going to get Covid if you have these vaccinations.” Of course, President Biden knew that this claim was incorrect as even vaccinated people on his staff have been infected.
Public health officials' back and forth guidelines do nothing to help the administration reach their vaccination goals. It's not clear to me how recommending that vaccinated people continue to wear a mask will not convince anyone who is vaccine-hesitant to take the vaccine. For sure, one thing we'll all know is that this won't be the last flip flop by the CDC, and with every reversal, they lose more of what remains of public trust.