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CDC Chief Wants You To Hear This Before Going Mask Free

“In the last two weeks, our cases are down in this country by about a third.”
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Yesterday, the CDC announced those vaccinated can go mask-free in most places, indoor or outdoors. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  appeared on All Things Considered yesterday and spoke with NPR's Ailsa Chang about the big new changes. Read on for seven key takeaways that can keep you safe—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Symptoms Everyone Needs to Know About During This Pandemic.


On Why CDC Is Issuing This Guidance Now:

Close-up view of a tablet pc with CDC abbreviation

"In the last two weeks, our cases are down in this country by about a third. We're now at about 34000, 36000 cases on average per day over the last seven days. So cases are actually down quite a bit. The second is we now really do have an opportunity across this country for anyone who wants a vaccine to get it. We expanded that opportunity yesterday for 12 to 15 year olds, which made 17 million more people eligible for a vaccine. But now, really, with all of the vaccine that is available, we don't have vaccine shortages. We have opportunities for people to find where they can get vaccinated. And really, everybody who wants a vaccine at this point has access to one. I might just parenthetically say, if you don't know where to get a vaccine, you can text GETVAX and put in your zip code — 438829  and you can find all the vaccine near you. But then thirdly is there's been evolving science so really over the last several weeks and even some studies released in the last week or so have demonstrated important things related to vaccination. One is that the vaccine is working in, in the public in the same way it worked in the clinical trials. That the effectiveness in real world studies is very similar, over 90 percent as it was in the clinical trials. And so that's really terrific news. The second is that it's working against the variants that we have circulating in this country. So we saw that in the lab. But we have also seen it in now studies that were published just this past week in the New England Journal that the vaccines are working against the B117  variant, the B1351 variant. And then thirdly, there is emerging data that has demonstrated that, that if you are vaccinated, you generally don't get asymptomatic infection and generally cannot transmit to other people. So, there's certainly there you know, there are exceptions for all of these, but for the most part, the vaccine is once you're vaccinated, you can't transmit to others. And so all of that science, in conjunction with all of the epidemiologic data that we have, really says now is the moment."


On Why Masks Are Still Required on Public Transportation:


medical mask in the metro

"What we really need to do now as an agency is comb all of our guidance not just for travel, but for schools and for camps and for child care centers and for all of the guidance that we have out there and apply the guidance that we have for individuals, vaccinated individuals to that. And that is going to be the work of the, of the weeks ahead that we have in the agency. And importantly, also to note, that the travel guidance is not just CDC's guidance, it's a policy and it's an interagency policy. So, we have to collaborate with other agencies to, to work through what might change in that policy."


On the Fact That Vaccines Don't Provide 100 Percent Coverage:


"So, you know, the emerging data that we see for the most part there, we've seen 90 percent. Many studies have been up to 97 percent. But what we also are seeing in those people who are getting infected for the most part, about a third of them are having asymptomatic infection. Many of them are having, even if they have symptoms they are mild symptoms. So really and that is, in fact, what we saw in the trials as well, that these vaccines were really 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths."


On Whether Someone Who Got the Johnson&Johnson Vaccine Can Safely Go Without Masks:

Syringe Injection placed against Johnson and Johnson logo

"Our guidance is really for anybody who is vaccinated with any of the vaccines. Certainly, the Johnson and Johnson data from the clinical trials also showed 100 percent efficacy in a severe disease, hospitalization and death."


On Issuing Clearer Guidance For Workplaces:

people with face masks back at work or school in office after lockdown

"I think it's really important to understand at a jurisdictional level, how is your jurisdiction doing? The whole country is not a homogeneous space. So, we have some jurisdictions that have higher levels of cases. We have some jurisdictions that have lower levels of vaccine administration. And so, it may very well be that their jurisdictions want to look at how it sort of the temperature of how they're doing before they lift some of these mandates." So get vaccinated, and to get through life at your healthiest, don't miss: This Supplement Can Raise Your Cancer Risk, Experts Say.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek