Yesterday the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks indoors. They stated a little over two weeks ago that fully vaccinated people did not need to wear masks outdoors, but this recent decision was still a shock. President Biden did a nice announcement about it, outdoors and unmasked in The Rose Garden. Biden’s speech went a long way to making me feel better about this. He mentioned that an historic amount of people have been vaccinated in the US already, making it relatively safe for vaccinated people to go without a mask inside. Biden also said that if we’re vaccinated and want to continue wearing masks that’s our business and we should treat masked people with kindness. He’s such a good President! I wanted to talk about this CNN article that described how the CDC made this decision and how surprising it was to the White House:
White House officials were surprised when the CDC informed them Wednesday around 9 p.m. ET that the agency was changing its guidance for fully vaccinated people, multiple sources told CNN.
Officials had not expected the CDC to release new masking guidance for at least several more days, and also did not anticipate how far-reaching the guidance would be, given the CDC’s cautious track record.
But that is exactly how the White House wants these situations to be handled, after Biden came into office vowing to restore the CDC’s independence.
“We’re so sensitive about not talking about the content of what they’re doing that it’s not always easy to predict,” a senior official said.
Walensky made the ultimate decision to update the recommendations after meeting with other CDC officials Wednesday. She then briefed Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra that afternoon and informed the White House about the change Wednesday evening, the sources said.
The late-night information set off a scramble inside the White House to roll out the guidance on Thursday, with an announcement during the day’s coronavirus briefing and plans made for the President to address the country from the Rose Garden afterward.
Walensky met with White House officials Thursday morning to discuss the guidance and prepare for the questions she would likely face about it during the afternoon coronavirus briefing — a process that one official described as “pressure-testing” the new guidance. After the session, Walensky felt prepared to move forward.
While Biden trumpeted the new guidance Thursday, he still stressed the need to continue vaccinating at an aggressive clip in order to drive transmission numbers lower.
“We aren’t done yet, we’re still losing too many Americans because we still have too many unvaccinated people. We have to get to 70% of adults started on vaccinations by July the Fourth. We have to take this pandemic — tackle it. Not just here but overseas as well, to truly be safe in the long run,” he said. “There’s still more work ahead. But I have said many times, as tough as this pandemic has been, we will get through it.”
About 45% of US adults are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to data published Wednesday by the CDC. If vaccinations continue at the current pace, 70% of adults will have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine by the second week of June.
In the meantime, the President urged Americans to treat those who continue to wear a mask with “kindness and respect.”
So did Biden just stick a bow on a decision by the CDC that was the result of internal politics? I honestly don’t know. CDC Director Dr. Walensky said at the end of March that she was scared and had a sense of doom about the pandemic. Two days ago, on CNBC, she defended the CDC’s then-position on mask-wearing. However on MSNBC last night, she said that the data supports that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks inside, that the vaccines are effective against the new variants, and that we should get comfortable going maskless.
I remember when the CDC told us, early in the pandemic, that we didn’t need masks and should just wear gloves. (Dr. Walensky became director in December. She was appointed by Biden.) I trust Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Health. He told us, a month ago, that eating indoors still wasn’t safe. He’s also touted the benefits of mask-wearing beyond protecting us from this single virus. Many of us prefer to wear masks. It’s not likely we will reach herd immunity in the US because there are too many anti-vaxxers, but it sounds like the science is there to say we’re protected if we’re vaccinated. I was hoping that mask-wearing would be encouraged by the CDC. I live in a rural area in the south. This last year I’ve had some uncomfortable run-ins with MAGAs who think their “freedom” is more important than protecting people from death. It’s going to be a difficult adjustment to seeing people maskless indoors. I’m not ready to resume activities like going to the gym, especially if people aren’t going to be wearing masks. There’s no way to know if they’re vaccinated or not. Where I live, the people who wear masks are more likely to have their shots. How can we tell now? If we’ve learned anything these past few years, it’s that people can’t be trusted.
Kaiser agrees with me. She said “I’m really not ready to go back to go maskless everywhere, even though I’m fully vaccinated. I still want to wear masks in crowds, in grocery stores and shops. I hope that VA’s Governor Northam keeps some kind of mask mandate in place for another few months.”
I am not enthused by CDC guidances that are basically an honor system, knowing many in this country have no honor whatsoever.
— Ragnarok Lobster (@eclecticbrotha) May 13, 2021
I am in retail. We are bracing ourselves for tomorrow, when a lot of people will come in without masks. We are obviously not allowed to ask if they are vaxxed. Still waiting for our company’s official ruling, but we assume employees will still be masked.
— Pam B. (@whammus) May 14, 2021
Here’s Biden’s remarks on this ruling by the CDC: