CDC Director Walensky On Dropping COVID Restrictions: ‘We’re Not Quite There Yet’

CDC Director Walensky on dropping COVID restrictions: ‘We’re not quite there yet’

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday that right now is not the time for state and local leaders to end COVID-19 restrictions.

In an interview with WYPR, Walensky noted that while the agency is “cautiously optimistic” about case numbers and hospitalizations trending downward, there are still a significant number of cases and hospitalizations in comparison to other pandemic peaks.

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“We will continue to evaluate the science. But, right now, we still have about 290,000 cases every single day. And, our hospitalization rates are now higher than they even were at the peak of our delta surge. And so – in this moment. – While we are looking ahead and planning ahead, we will continue to evaluate and follow the science. Our recommendations are consistent with encouraging students to wear well-fitting masks, “she said.

When asked about what she thinks about the approach to loosen restrictions when it seems warranted and reinstate them should the need arise, Walensky said it’s something worth considering.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky gives her opening statement during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on "Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response" on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, November 4, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky gives her opening statement during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on “Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response” on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, November 4, 2021.
(REUTERS / Elizabeth Frantz)

“I think as a general rule that’s certainly something that is potentially worth considering,” she replied. “What I would say is, we might disagree on the ‘when you can’ part. When we have a higher number of hospitalizations than we’ve had during prior peaks of surges, when we have more deaths today than we’ve had in The prior peak of delta, I guess at 300,000 cases a day, I would just say we’re not quite there yet. “

She echoed those comments in a Tuesday interview with Reuters, saying “now is not the moment” to drop mask mandates.

Recently, several state leaders across the country have announced plans to end statewide school mask mandates by the end of February or March.

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Students and staff at public schools in Massachusetts will no longer be required to wear face coverings inside starting Feb. 28, Gov. Charlie Baker and state education commissioner Jeffrey Riley said Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the state will end a COVID-19 mandate requiring face coverings in most indoor public settings, but will keep masking rules in place in schools for now.

California will end its indoor masking requirement For vaccinated people next week, though officials announced Monday that masks are still the rule for schoolchildren.

In addition, unvaccinated people will still be required to be masked indoors, and everyone – regardless of vaccination status – will have to wear masks in higher-risk areas like public transit and nursing homes.

The Golden State has seen a 65% drop in case rates since the peak during the wintertime omicron surge.

Walensky said current CDC guidance still recommends that all schools encourage students to wear a well-fitting mask while indoors and that people mask up in public indoor settings in areas of higher or substantial transmission.

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“If we can get more and more children vaccinated, drive the number of cases down, then we have a much better chance of making sure that our schools can remain open when masks come off,” Walensky explained.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.