CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told ABC’s Martha Raddatz Sunday the reversal on mask guidance came as a result of rapidly evolving science.
Raddatz pressed Walensky during a Sunday morning appearance on “This Week,” asking what had prompted the CDC to so abruptly abandon mask recommendations for vaccinated Americans and why she hadn’t mentioned that possibility during a Senate hearing just days earlier. (RELATED: Susan Collins Says The Golden Era Of Respect She Once Had For The CDC Is Over)
“It was just Tuesday when you sat before a Senate committee and you were adamant then that masking and social distancing should remain in place,” Raddatz began, citing a Washington Post report indicating the decision to lift some restrictions may have already been made by then.
“When it was finally announced on Thursday, it came as a huge surprise, and it left some administration officials, doctors and businesses off guard. Why so suddenly, and why did you not tell the Senate panel what you had decided?” she asked.
“First of all, let’s celebrate this moment,” Walensky replied, noting the dramatic drop off in coronavirus infections in recent weeks and the widespread availability of multiple effective vaccines.
“We now have science that has really just evolved even in the last two weeks that demonstrates that these vaccines are safe,” she continued. “They are effective, they are working in the population just as they did in the clinical trials that they are working against our variants that we have here circulating in the United States.”
“Some of that science was really evolving as late as last Thursday, and one of the papers was published from the CDC just before yesterday,” Walensky added, saying that experts had been evaluating the latest data even as she sat in the Senate to testify.
“I told the American people I would deliver the science as soon as we had it,” she said.
Raddatz continued to press, noting that the removal of federal guidance recommending masks left regulations up to local communities, individual businesses, and ultimately, up to individual people.
“But who is supposed to — who is supposed to be the vaccination police?” she asked. “You look at Costco and Walmart, these essential workers. What are they supposed to do? They’re — again, there’s a quarter of the country that says they will not get vaccinated.”
“We are asking people to take their health into their own hands, to get vaccinated, and if they don’t, then they continue to be at risk. For the unvaccinated, our policy has not changed,” Walensky replied. “This — we were going to get to a place in this pandemic where vaccinated people were going to be able to take off their masks. We’re lucky to be there with the science that we have.”