On Sunday, in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” new mask guidelines for vaccinated individuals has been announced by Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr Rochelle Walensky.

“If they’re vaccinated, they are safe. If they are not vaccinated, they are not safe. They should still be wearing a mask or better yet, get vaccinated,” she told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz. She added that decisions on mask mandates need to be made at the “community level.”

“We also need to say that this is not permission for widespread removal of masks,” Walensky said. “For those who are vaccinated, it may take some time for them to feel comfortable removing their masks, but also that these decisions have to be made at the jurisdictional level, at the community level. Some communities have been hit harder than others; have lowered vaccination rates than others.”

Since the new mask guidance was announced on Thursday, many states, local governments and businesses have updated their mask ordinances based on the CDC’s recommendation that vaccinated individuals can be maskless indoors, outdoors or in large crowds. The guidelines still call for masks to be worn on public transportation and in homeless shelters, hospitals and prisons.

Some states, including California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York, are keeping their universal mask mandates intact.

As late as Tuesday, Walensky and other health officials were still recommending universal mask-wearing during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

“When it was finally announced on Thursday it came as a huge surprise. It left some administration officials, doctors, businesses off guard. So why so suddenly, and why did you not tell the Senate panel what you had decided?” Raddatz asked.

“During the past week we were making decisions,” Walensky responded. “Our subject matter experts were working just as I was testifying in front of Congress.”

“We want to deliver the science of the individual level, but we also understand that these decisions have to be made at the community level.”

Walensky said mask guidance has not changed for the unvaccinated. “We have to take this foundational step that is completely based in science and understand what it means as we open the entire country,” she said.

The CDC director also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” where she said the new guidance will be “a slow process” to be implemented and won’t happen everywhere at the same time.

“The other thing is every community is not the same. Not all communities have high vaccination rates,” she said. “And some communities still have high case rates. These decisions have to be made at the community level.

But what we are saying to those essential workers is that if those workers are vaccinated, they are safe. So it’s we are asking the businesses to work with their workers to make sure that they have the paid time off to get themselves vaccinated so they can be safe.”

Walensky also acknowledged that the new guidance has created confusion that will take “hard work” to explain.

“I know that we need to do the hard work. This was individual guidance to understand what this means for communities, what this means for businesses. We know at the individual level the vaccinated people are safe,” she said. “More than one-third of Americans have been vaccinated, over 45% of adults above the age of 18. Those people are safe when they get vaccinated after they are fully vaccinated.”

“This was the first building block,” Walensky added. “We, as a society, have the hard work to do — as we at CDC are doing — to say what does that mean in the whole plethora of settings that we have, in child care settings, retail businesses, in schools, in camps, in travel.”


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