CDC director discusses new mask guidance for fully vaccinated Americans

Dr. Rochelle Walensky talks about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's decision to amend its indoor mask guidance despite less than half the country being fully vaccinated.
4:23 | 05/14/21

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Transcript for CDC director discusses new mask guidance for fully vaccinated Americans
people that breakthrough infections after being vaccinated are rare. Let's bring in Dr. Rochelle walensky. Dr. Walensky, thanks for joining us again this morning. Your decision caught a lot of us by surprise. Why now and does this mean we are approaching the end of the pandemic? Good morning, George. There were several pieces that really went into this important decision that occurred yesterday. One is that our cases are down in this country. They're down about a third from where they were even just two weeks ago. Two is that now vaccines are available to everyone. It is accessible within five miles of 90% of Americans in the United States. We have enough supply now if you really want a vaccine you can get it. In fact, text 438829 and put in your zip code and find five vaccine sites near you. The third is the science is really informed us evolving science even just over the last two weeks that these vaccines are working the same in our cohorts, in our populations and in the real world as they did in clinical trials, over 90% to 95% effectiveness in the real world studies. That they are working against the variants that we have circulating here in the united States, a study just published last week and that if you are to get covid-19, even if you are vaccinated, that you have a much lower load of virus, largely asymptomatic and much less likely to give it to someone else so all of those things happening at the same time is what motivated our decision. We'll have to trust each other going forward. You heard the concern from frontline workers. They're worried they'll have to become vaccination police. Yeah, you know, what I would say here is this was a first step in our guidance and what we really need to do now is look at each of our individual guidance for each of these individual settings and say, in a setting of schools or child care centers or the workplace is this the appropriate thing to do given all other parameters? I would also say that, you know, this country is not home genius, it's not uniform. There are some areas that still have more disease than others. There's areas that have quite low vaccination rates so we can't treat it necessarily as uniform and a lot of decision also have to happen at the jurisdictional level. Let's dig into that impact on children and schools. What does it mean? First of all, we had great news this week. We have now vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds so I think that is a huge step forward for our children and for schools in the year ahead. I will say that I believe that come the fall, all of our children, all of our educators, all of our teachers should be -- plan to be back full time five days a week in person. We have the capacity now between vaccines and testing, screening, we believe schools can and should be a very safe place for people to go back to in the fall. Should schools require these vacs for kids? I don't necessarily think we're leaning into that quite yet. I think we need to have more data on the younger children for sure and then those decisions are going to have to be made at the jurisdictional level. And then you talk about this as a first step. You're still requiring masks on planes and trains, modes of what is it going to take to lift the requirement for that kind of travel? So now that we have this first step in place we are going to look at all of our guidance including travel, including child care centers, including schools as you noted including camps which people have been interested in and we need to look at those one at a time and just see where we are and what our revised guidance should be in the context of this new guidance on individuals. With regard to travel I want to just highlight that not only do we have guidance with regard to travel but a federal policy with regard to travel and so that's an interagency policy. We need to work together and revisit that policy in the context of these new guidance. Your demeanor has changed so much in the past two months. Are we now at the end of this pandemic or approaching the end? You know, I'm cautiously optimistic. What I will say, though, is with this virus, we have learned to be humble and I think we cannot let our guard down. We need to continue to watch the science. We need to continue to be vigilant and we need to continue to make sure the American people are safe and that's what I plan to do. But today is a good day. Dr. Walensky, thanks very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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