'This Is Hard': CDC Head Walensky Explains Confusing Guidelines as All Free to Decide on Their Own
This comes amid the current surge in daily COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks due to the Omicron variant, and the ongoing US Supreme Court debate over federal vaccine mandates opposed by Republican governors in several states.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on Sunday tried to explain the newly revised guidelines on testing and isolation for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and those who are showing symptoms of the virus, and the agency's confusing messaging that has caused the public to lose trust in her organization.
Fox News host Bret Baier challenged Walensky in a Sunday interview, wondering if she believed that the "confusion about the guidance" she mentioned, such as on "isolation and testing," had contributed to the public distrust of the CDC.
30 December 2021, 21:33 GMT
Baier started by mentioning the agency's newly-issued recommendations that advise isolation duration following a positive test from ten to five days and removed the recommendation for a negative test before leaving isolation.
Baier noted that the "other guidance is the mask-wearing, educators being vaccinated
before returning to the classroom."
"Before you took this job officially, you emphasized that one of your primary goals was to restore public trust," he continued. "But in this time, do you think that it’s fair to say that the trust and confidence of the public has gone down with the CDC?"
Walensky replied that "this is hard."
"We have ever-evolving science with an ever-evolving variant, and my job is to provide updated guidance in the context of rapidly rising cases," she explained. "That is what we’ve done and I am here to explain it to the American people and I’m committed to continuing to do so and to continuing to improve."
However, Baier went on to say that, despite the new guidance, facilities like Georgetown University were still using ten-day isolation protocols for asymptomatic students, as well as testing that could result in a positive result from small amounts of the deadly virus even if the student in question was not infectious. Then, he asked Walensky to comment on the "major companies and universities [..] ignoring" the updated guidelines and continuing to isolate or quarantine asymptomatic people for ten days.
The new guidance, according to Walensky, is intended for the general public, although larger organizations and universities should continue to make their own decisions.
"Many of these universities have kids living in multi-person rooms," she explained, "so they’re going to have to adapt our guidance for the safety of their congregate settings."
In response to that, Baier further pressed her on whether it is "extreme" to lock multiple people in a room with those allegedly infected, but Walensky reiterated that instructions in "congregate settings" may need to be tailored to the circumstances.
"Our updated guidance actually says you can leave isolation after five days if you can wear your mask all of the time, including being able to eat meals alone so that you are not infecting others while you eat. That may need to be what’s happening in these congregate settings," she added.
The host asked Walensky whether she would like to convey that message to universities such as Georgetown, that are currently following the ten-day isolation guidance.
"No, what I would say is if you’re in a congregate setting, you have to adapt our guidance for that congregate setting. These guidances were meant for the general public," she underscored.
More to the interview,
Walensky was asked to comment on the Supreme Court scrutiny of the Biden administration's vaccine mandates, especially the statement by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who brought up children suffering because of COVID-19 during oral arguments in a lawsuit involving the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for enterprises with at least 100 employees.
In her argument, the justice said that the US currently has "100,000" children in hospitals with COVID-19, "which we've never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators."
Walensky admitted that the number is nowhere near the figure given by Sotomayor, saying that there are fewer than 3,500 children in hospitals with COVID-19, while also emphasizing that Americans can still help prevent hospitalization by getting vaccinated.
Walensky further pointed out that COVID-19 hospitalizations typically comprise people who are admitted to hospitals for other reasons and then test positive for the virus while there, rather than those who are admitted because they are unwell with the coronavirus.
Moreover, Sotomayor mentioned the delta variant, claiming that the omicron is equally as lethal. Walensky seemed to dismiss the idea that this is true on an individual basis, saying that "on a person-by-person basis, it may not be," but adding that the death rate "may rise dramatically" due to the increased number of omicron instances.
The number of detected cases of the coronavirus in the US has exceeded 60 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 60 million people have been infected
with the coronavirus in the country since the outbreak, of which more than 837,000 patients have died.
According to the CDC, the current 7-day moving average
of daily new cases (586,391) grew 85.7% from the previous 7-day moving average as of January 5, 2022.