CDC Defends Lifting the Mask Requirement, Says Only Unvaccinated People Are at Risk Without Them

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Dr. Rochelle Walensky
The Centers for Disease Control Director and senior health professionals spent the weekend defending the agency's decision to lift mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals, stressing that only unvaccinated individuals without a mask are at risk.
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that fully vaccinated people have very little risk of COVID-19 infection as they fear unvaccinated people would abuse the new mask recommendations and fear that it is too early for Americans to go without them.
RELATED: Data from these 4 studies convinced the CDC to drop their masks on vaccinated people
"When you are vaccinated, we say you are safe, you can put your mask on and you are not at risk of serious illness or hospitalization from COVID-19," she told Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday. "If you haven't been vaccinated, you are not sure. Please get vaccinated or keep wearing your mask."
The CDC has come under fire after recommending on Thursday that fully vaccinated people can go without a mask outdoors and in most indoor spaces. People suggested that the federal health department made the surprising change after political pressure. However, Walensky stressed that new data on the vaccines' effectiveness led to their decision.
Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty People with and without a mask stroll through Central Park in New York City
"It would certainly have been easier if the science had advanced a week earlier, and I didn't have to go to Congress to make those statements," Walensky said, referring to her testimony before the Senate Health Committee a few days earlier. where the Republicans argued against the then strict mask management of the CDC.
"I got it delivered asap when we have this information," she said.
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Walensky was also asked about the potential risks the new mask guide poses to grocery store employees who may now be exposed to unvaccinated individuals who refuse to wear a mask as Walmart, Costco and Trader Joe removed all of their mask requirements .
"Probably the most important thing companies can do right now is to make sure that it is easy for their own employees to get vaccinated," she told Meet the Press.
RELATED VIDEO: Vaccinated Americans can now do without masks in most indoor and outdoor locations, CDC says
By May 17, well over half, or 56.1%, of eligible Americans 12 and older had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. And 43.9%, or nearly 123 million eligible Americans, are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC.
New COVID-19 cases in the US are also falling sharply. According to the New York Times, the country has seen an average of just over 33,000 infections per day, a number that has fallen 33% in the past two weeks. All 50 states are now seeing a decline in cases as more Americans get vaccinated.
Because information about the coronavirus pandemic changes rapidly, PEOPLE strives to provide the latest data in our reporting. Some of the information in this story may have changed since it was published. For the latest information on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local health authorities. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise funds for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser run by that supports everything from front-line responders to families in need to organizations that help communities. For more information or to donate, click here.
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Rochelle Walensky

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