It was sort of a big deal when CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced last month that vaccinated people could go about their business, both indoors and outdoors, without masks. But as Allahpundit noted over the weekend, there is some pushback on that guidance coming from the WHO. The group’s assistant director-general said, “People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene … the physical distance, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you’re vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing.”
Los Angeles County took that warning to heart and issued new mask guidance on Monday.
On Monday, health officials in Los Angeles County followed suit, recommending that “everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as a precautionary measure.”
Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said the new recommendation was needed because of upticks in infections, a rise in cases due to the worrisome Delta variant, and persistently high numbers of unvaccinated residents, particularly children, Black and Latino residents and essential workers.
Dr. Ferrer even implied that if people didn’t follow the new guidance it could lead to the return of lockdowns: “We don’t want to return to lockdown or more disruptive mandates here. We want to stay on the path we’re on right now, which is keeping community transmission really low.”
The city of Pasadena’s Public Health department followed suit and also recommended a return to masks when indoors. But Chicago took the opposite position. The city’s public health commissioner said Chicago would be sticking with the CDC guidance from May, i.e. if you’re vaccinated you don’t need a mask.
We *are in a good spot!
— Dr. Allison Arwady (@DrArwady) June 29, 2021
Today, CDC Director Walensky clarified that nothing has changed in the CDC’s view. “The vaccinated we believe still are safe,” she said. Her explanation of why the WHO seemed to be waffling on mask guidance sounded like an attempt to cover for the WHO, but I think there was more to it.
“The WHO really does have to make recommendations for an entire world where less than 15% of people are vaccinated,” she said. “The context in which the WHO is making recommendations is very different than us here in the United States where we’re really lucky to have three very effective vaccines and about two-thirds of the adult population fully vaccinated,” she added.
The statement I quoted above from the WHO assistant director-general was specifically directed at those who have already been vaccinated. So Walensky’s comments don’t really add context so much as they gloss over context. Why is the WHO issuing this warning to vaccinated people?
The only way I can really square this circle is that both the WHO and the CDC Director are doing her best not to say something critical about China’s crummy vaccines. China actually produced two vaccines and neither one seems to be terribly good. They are moderately effective against the initial strain of the virus and are thought to be significantly less effective against the variants, especially delta.
WHO is warning that some vaccinated people still need to be careful because (without naming names) they may have received a vaccine that doesn’t protect them very well. Walensky is also trying to avoid provoking an international argument with China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats, so she’s just letting us know that the WHO guidance is really directed at other parts of the world, not here in the US where we have really good vaccines.
That’s a guess but it helps makes sense of what she is saying. Honestly, given all of China’s efforts at “vaccine diplomacy” I with the CDC would just come out and say it. Let China get defensive and worked up about their inferior vaccines if they want to. The US government shouldn’t be tip-toeing around this like LeBron James or John Cena. Here’s Walensky on Good Morning America.