CDC chief Rochelle Walensky grilled over agency’s abrupt new mask guidance

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CDC Director Rochelle Walensky was grilled Sunday over her agency’s abrupt new guidance that vaccinated people can ditch their masks — and whether businesses will now need to become “the vaccination police.”

“Fox News Sunday” TV anchor Chris Wallace pressed the agency chief about concerns over the sudden shift in policy and who will ensure those who aren’t wearing masks are vaccinated, with major stores such as Costco now saying face coverings are no longer required for those who’ve had the jab.

Wallace told Walensky business owners claim that “you, in effect, have changed them from being the mask police to the vaccination police.“

“Haven’t you put these people in a tough spot to say, ‘Well, have you really been vaccinated?’” he said.

The CDC director dodged the question, replying, “The first thing I would ask is that those businesses make it easy for their employees to get vaccinated, to give them the time off, the paid time off that they need, so that employees, frontline workers can get vaccinated and protect themselves.”

Other than that, the relaxed recommendations rely on the honor system, she said.

“The honor system is to be honest with yourself,” Walensky said.

“If you are vaccinated, we are saying you are safe, you can take off your mask, and you are not at risk of severe disease or hospitalization from COVID-19. If you are not vaccinated, you are not safe.”

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Walensky argued that people who are “not inclined to wear a mask” now were probably already not wearing one, but host Dana Bash noted that “some of them were mandated to do so, and those mandates are lifting in part because of your new guidelines.”

The CDC chief simply replied again that people “have to be honest with themselves.”

In a separate interview with host Martha Raddatz on ABC TV’s “This Week,” Walensky continued to skirt the “vaccination police” question, again stressing personal responsibility.

“We are asking people to take their health into their own hands to get vaccinated, and if they don’t, then they continue to be at risk for the unvaccinated. Our policy has not changed,” Walensky said.

She also was taken to task over the agency’s announcement Thursday to overhaul its recommendations — just two days after she defended stricter mask mandates during a Capitol Hill hearing.

The federal agency’s new guidelines say people who are fully vaccinated can now go maskless and don’t have to socially instance even indoors in most circumstances.

“We were making decisions and … moving, and our subject-matter experts were working just as I was testifying in front of Congress,” Walensky told ABC in trying to defend the agency’s about-face in the course of two days.

“We were going to get to a place in this pandemic where vaccinated people were going to be able to take off their masks. We’re lucky to be there with the science that we have. And now we have to take this foundational step that is completely based in science and understand what it means as we open the entire country.

“We now have science that has really just evolved — even in the last two weeks — that demonstrates that these vaccines are safe. They are effective. They are working in the population just as they did in the clinical trials,” she said.

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