Pressure mounts on CDC to update mask requirements

News Nation

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — With many people newly vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is changing the rules for what Americans can or cannot do to remain safe. 

The changes are causing confusion for some lawmakers. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is promising the agency is following the latest science.  

“My appeal is to implore everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible as the fastest way to end this pandemic,” said Walensky. “But even with this powerful tool [vaccine], while we continue to have community transmission, we must also maintain public health measures we know will prevent the spread of this virus – mask, hygiene, hand hygiene and physical distancing.”

Some politicians believe the updates are more confusing than helpful. 

“I used to have the utmost respect for the guidance from the CDC. I always considered the CDC to be the gold standard. I don’t anymore,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Other lawmakers are asking for the CDC to reconsider mask requirements for kids who are going to camps.

Current CDC guidance for masking: 

  • People 2 years of age and older to wear a mask.
  • Any time you are in a public setting
  • Any time you are traveling on public transportation 
  • When you are around people who do not live with you, whether inside your home or their home

The only exceptions are:

  • Children under the age of 2
  • A person with a disability who cannot safely wear a mask
  • A person for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty 

Now, the CDC is adding another group: people who are fully vaccinated.

The change echoes what some scientists have been saying as well.

“Well, risk of transmission outdoors is a lot lower than it is indoors,” said Dr. Brian Labus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “And as we have more and more people vaccinated, the need for a mask outside starts to decrease quite a bit. So we’re at the point where as long as you’re not in a large crowd, we could easily go without masks outside.”

Dr. Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, says new data reveals everyone should be maskless outdoors — whether vaccinated or not. 

“The fact that it disperses really quickly in the outside air…doesn’t like heat, doesn’t like humidity — so, low rates of outdoor transmission. Many scientists have been advocating for no outdoor masking — unless you’re in tight pack spaces. And that would separate from vaccination status because it’s really the biology of outdoor transmission that would drive outdoor masking,” said Gandhi.

As scientists continue to study COVID-19, both doctors say to be prepared for even more changes. They also agree vaccination is the best way to stop the spread of the disease.

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