03:14 GMT20 June 2021
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    The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask guidelines this week, saying fully vaccinated persons could participate in social activities both in and out of doors without the need to wear a mask or engage in social distancing. President Biden said people who have not been vaxxed should continue to “wear a mask until you do.”

    CDC Chief Rochelle Walensky appeared on the talk show circuit on Sunday to discuss the new mask guidelines which were issued Thursday, denying that the dropping of mandatory mask wearing was not politically motivated, and suggesting that the new guidelines are based on “evolving science.”

    “I can tell you it certainly would have been easier if the science had evolved a week earlier and I didn’t have to go to Congress making those statements,” Walensky said, speaking to Fox News Sunday and referring to her testy exchange with Republicans last week on mask guidelines and other issues. “But I’m delivering the science as the science is delivered to the medical journals. And you know, it evolved over this last week, the cases came down over the last two weeks,” she said.

    The CDC director and other health officials took a grilling from Senate Republicans on Tuesday over what lawmakers said was “conflicting” and “confusing guidance” on masks and other anti-Covid guidelines, including “exaggerating the risks of outdoor transmission,” and special risks to some categories of workers – such as fishermen, who are forced to keep soaked masks on during their shifts for fear of being fined by the Coast Guard.

    In her Sunday interview with Fox, Walensky went on to say that the new guidelines were akin to an “honour system.”

    “If you are vaccinated, we are saying, you’re safe, you can take off your mask and you’re not at risk of severe disease or hospitalization from COVID-19. If you’re not vaccinated, you are not safe, please go get vaccinated or continue to wear your mask,” she explained.

    In a separate Sunday interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Walensky indicated that the federal government was “not counting on vaccine mandates at all,” and said it “may very well be that local businesses, local jurisdictions will work toward vaccine mandates.” She added that “current scientific data had shown” that those who had been vaccinated were also safe from mutations of the virus.

    In yet another interview, this time with ABC’s This Week, the CDC chief stressed that the science has “really just evolved even in the last two weeks” to show that vaccines are safe and effective,” and said mask-wearing guidelines separate from those made at the federal level be made at the local level.

    “We also need to say that this is not permission for widespread removal of masks. For those who are vaccinated, it may take some time for them to feel comfortable removing their masks, but also that these decisions have to be made at the jurisdictional level, at the community level,” she said.

    Finally, speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, the official stressed that children should “continue to wear masks” in public places if they have not been vaccinated, and expressed “hope” that children under the age of 12 would be made eligible to receive vaccines by the end of the year.

    The slew of interviews sparked anger among many viewers – both among those demanding tougher mask regulations, and those who have rejected wearing masks altogether even before the new guidelines came out.

    “Back and forth. Back and forth – just like Science is NOT supposed to be,” one user angrily wrote on Twitter. “Clown show,” another added, linking to one of the interviews.

    “So @CDCDirector Walensky: - knowingly lied to Congress on Tuesday – claimed the ‘science’ evolved in the past 2 weeks proving vaccines effective. If this happened during the Trump administration, Martha Raddatz would be ranting and raving,” a third chimed in.

    “CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is being thoroughly consistent-  consistently echoing the Biden Party Line, which itself rapidly and reliably changes,” another user quipped.

    “I don’t believe a word Walensky says. She never answers questions directly. She plays games with guidelines and data. She withheld data on outdoor transmission and surface transmission for MONTHS. I still don’t feel safe without a mask, and I feel the situation now is worse,” another user, this one a mask advocate, said. “I liked the CDC until they did this premature drop-the-mask recommendation,” another user with a similar opinion noted.

    Others took issue with Walensky’s comments about reports of 223 deaths of people with Covid after they had been vaccinated, and her suggestion that “they may have had mild disease but died, for example, of a heart attack.”

    Related:

    CDC: Fully Vaccinated Americans No Longer Need Masks Outside, Unless in Large Groups
    ‘Great Milestone’: Biden Praises CDC’s New Mask Guidance, Urges Public to Vaccinate
    Americans Rejoice at Relaxed Mask Rules, Wary of Cheaters
    CDC Keeps Mandatory Mask Wearing by School Students Amid Easing COVID-19 Restrictions
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