CDC chief wore mask to testimony before Congress today for some reason

CDC chief wore mask to testimony before Congress today for some reason
AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool

Average joes who’ve been vaccinated shouldn’t be hassled for their habit of wearing masks even after the CDC has said there’s no need. Everyone’s timetable for adjusting to post-pandemic life will be different. Let the cautious continue to exercise a bit of extra unnecessary caution as they re-acclimate to normalcy.

And Rochelle Walensky should be spared from cheap gotchas even though we’re all fed up with the CDC being slippery and slowfooted on certain guidance. I don’t doubt that she’s trying to do her best with what she has. Remember, she was out in front of her own agency on things like reopening schools before teachers had been vaccinated and shortening the six-foot rule to a three-foot rule for students.

But I don’t think this is a cheap gotcha and she’s certainly no average joe. For all the chatter about how confusing the CDC’s rules are, the rule she announced last week can be boiled down to something clear and comprehensible. If you’re vaccinated, feel free to unmask outdoors and indoors, with a few extraordinary exceptions. (I.e. inside schools and while traveling.) If you’re not vaccinated, mask up. The vaccinated rarely get infected and rarely transmit the virus when they do so there’s no reason for them to take precautions in normal settings.

So why was Walensky taking precautions today? Why not model her own guidance?

Fox noticed that she remained masked up during Patty Murray’s opening remarks prior to her testimony before the Senate today, even though the Senate has relaxed its masking rules due to nearly all members having been immunized. So Walensky didn’t even have the excuse, as House members do, that the rules of the chamber require masking whether it’s needed or not. Why take precautions then?

And yes, needless to say, she’s been vaccinated. Months ago, in fact, even before becoming CDC chief:

She wasn’t the only Democrat ignoring the new mask guidance today. Don’t ask me what Chris Murphy thought he was accomplishing here:

Some public-health professionals and experts have grown louder lately in grumbling about Walensky, someone who was supposed to set things right at CDC after the Trump administration but who’s blundered into messes like claiming vaccinated people don’t carry the virus before needing her own agency to walk that back. The Daily Beast summarizes the new mask rules for vaxxed people as a case of “whiplash between excessive caution and reckless abandon”:

“I think it’s premature—I would even say reckless,” said Zenei Cortez, president of the California Nurses Association, whose state is one of the few not to swiftly implement the new recommendations. “We believe the CDC is putting our lives at risk.”…

Professor Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, was unnerved by the new guidance released last week. Data on the rates of indoor and outdoor infection have remained largely unchanged, while only a third of Americans are fully vaccinated—leaving the abrupt policy pivot scientifically inexplicable, he argued…

“Their guidance has been head-spinning and head-scratching,” Gostin told The Daily Beast. “It’s very unlikely this new guidance is going to encourage somebody who hasn’t gotten a vaccine to get a vaccine. It’s much more likely that it will encourage the unvaccinated to take off their masks. In fact, most people perceive what the CDC has done as mask guidance, not vaccine guidance.”

Does Walensky agree that it was reckless in hindsight? Is that why she was still masking up this morning?

John Kennedy put her on the spot today, asking whether he should need to wear a mask if he walked across the Capitol to the House, where Pelosi is still requiring them. Kennedy’s vaccinated; the CDC says vaccinated people don’t need masks. Did Walensky agree? She ended up … dodging, insisting that people should follow the rules of their jurisdiction, which in this case is the House.

She stressed there that each locality should set its own rules according to the infection and vaccination rates in its jurisdiction. But that’s not what the CDC’s policy was! It could have been their policy — tie mask rules to vaccination rates — but they settled for a broad “if you’re vaxxed you can ditch the mask in most circumstances” guideline. But Walensky wouldn’t own it when Kennedy gave her a chance.

I’ll leave you with this. Again, average joes shouldn’t be shamed, but this is interesting regardless in revealing that lot of people out there don’t fully trust the CDC’s conclusions about the vaccine. Given the agency’s track record over the past year, who can blame them?

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