How CDC Went From ‘Impending Doom’ To Telling All Vaccinated People To Take Their Masks Off

(Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
Font Size:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear a mask for most indoor and outdoor activities. But the decision followed weeks of doomsday-filled warnings from members of the CDC.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a bipartisan panel of senators on May  11 that wearing a mask was important, and pushed for individuals to continue doing so, according to The Washington Post.

“While we continue to have community transmission,” she said, “we must also maintain public health measures we know will prevent the spread of this virus: mask hygiene, hand hygiene, and physical distancing.”

Walensky pointed to vaccination rates nationwide as one of the main reasons why wearing a mask was still needed. While Walensky’s comments appeared to point toward no end in sight for the mask mandate, Walensky had actually approved CDC guidance the night before that would allow fully vaccinated individuals to stop wearing their masks, according to The Washington Post.

Walensky warned just weeks ago of impending doom. Walensky said in March that she had a “recurring feeling … of impending doom.”

“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential where we are, and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared,” she said, becoming visibly emotional. “I know what it’s like as a physician to stand in that patient room gowned, gloved, masked, shielded, and to be the last person to touch someone else’s loved one because they’re not going to be there.”

Walensky then warned against states, like Texas and Mississippi, lifting their mask mandates and other coronavirus restrictions.

President Joe Biden echoed Walensky’s fears.

“We share the sentiment of Dr. Walensky, the head of the CDC,” Biden said. “The CDC expressed earlier today that this is not the time to lessen our efforts. That’s what she said.”

“If we let our guard down now, we could see the virus getting worse, not better.” (RELATED: ‘Too Risky’: Progressives Are Upset CDC Lifted Mask Mandate)

While Walensky’s fears of impending doom were enough to get Biden on board, Walensky has since defended the CDC’s new mask guidance, which was released Thursday, by pointing to science.

“Everybody, as we are working toward opening up again after 16 months getting out of this pandemic, will need to understand what they need to do locally,” Walensky said on NBC’s ‘Meet The Press’ Sunday. “And this was not permission to shed masks for everybody everywhere. This was really science-driven individual assessment of your risk.”

“Right now, the data, the science shows us that it’s safe for vaccinated people to take off their masks. I, as the CDC director, promised the American people I would convey that science to you as we know it.”

Walensky also cited research showing Pfizer’s vaccine was effective at protecting against two strains of the virus. A study released Friday found vaccines were effective at stopping symptomatic cases among 33 healthcare sites.

The study found both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 94% effective at stopping symptomatic cases among those infected.  An earlier study found both vaccines were also 64% effective among partially vaccinated adults 65 and older.

“This report provided the most compelling information to date that COVID-19 vaccines were performing as expected in the real world,” Walensky said. “This study, added to the many studies that preceded it, was pivotal to CDC changing its recommendations for those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Another study based in Israel and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the Pfizer vaccine was 97% effective at protecting against symptomatic infection and 86% effective against asymptomatic infection.

The CDC’s new guidance, however, shocked many across the country, who appeared to share similar sentiments about masks as Walensky did just last Tuesday while speaking to the panel of senators.

Dr. Rhea Boyd, a pediatrician and public health advocate in the Bay Area criticized the new guidance in a tweet.

“If the United States had the vaccination rates of Black communities (about 27%) I don’t think the CDC would have changed the masking guidelines. We should change guidelines when it is reasonable and safe for the populations made MOST vulnerable, not for those who are the least.”

Emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University Dr. Leana Wen told NPR “CDC seems to have gone from one extreme of overcautious to another of basically throwing caution out the window.”