In just about a month and a half, the leader of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dramatically changed her tone on COVID-19 and mask mandates.
Today, the CDC announced it has revised its mask guidance again, now enabling those who are fully vaccinated to forgo wearing masks both indoors and outdoors. "Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities — large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
"Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines and our understanding of how the virus spreads, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated," she continued.
Just 45 days ago, on March 29, Walensky warned the nation of dire days ahead. "I'm going to lose the script, and I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom," she said during a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing.
"But right now I'm scared. 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 ones, because their loved ones couldn't be there." Walensky continued in the March livestream.
The fearful sentiment from a top player in the response team sent a clear signal that though the rising vaccination rates were a positive indicator, there was not enough confidence to ditch the mask or change protocol. In the weeks following Walensky’s March 29 comment, there was a surge in people running to get their vaccines.
A month after her doom comments, and with a bump in new vaccination numbers, Walensky announced a mask revision on April 27 to allow people who are fully vaccinated to do most things outdoors, with some precautions.
"We continue to recommend masking in crowded outdoor settings and venues such as packed stadiums and concerts where there is decreased ability to maintain physical distance, and where many unvaccinated people may also be present."
Now, only two weeks after the outdoor mask guidance revision, the CDC is amending the rules once more after pulling data from a study published May 6 and seeing a sharp reduction in new cases.
The message from the CDC may have changed drastically in a brief six weeks. But Walensky assured the country today, "We followed the science here."