“Look, we’ve gotten this far. Please protect yourself until you get to the finish line.” With these words, spoken in May, President Joe Biden instructed unvaccinated Americans to continue wearing face masks indoors but echoed advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated Americans could ditch their coverings. On Twitter, he said: “The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.”
It turns out the rule wasn’t as simple as he made out.
The CDC has told vaccinated Americans that they must put their face masks back on when indoors, less than three months after announcing that it was safe to remove them, citing fears over the Delta Covid variant. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters: “The Delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it.” The Washington Post has more.
On Tuesday… the CDC announced it had again changed its guidance on masks, recommending once more that all Americans wear masks indoors in public spaces. The game-changer for the agency was data showing that vaccinated people infected with the highly infectious delta variant carry the same viral load as unvaccinated people who are infected, the Washington Post reported.
Whiplash recommendations carry downsides. “Once you’ve let the genie out of the bottle, it’s really hard to put it back in,” said Lawrence Gostin, a Professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University. Americans who have set aside their masks might not be persuaded to don them again.
Last year, the CDC was not alone in its scepticism. The World Health Organisation (WHO) did not publish global guidance supporting masks until June 5th, more than two months after the United States did. The lack of mask availability early in the pandemic made recommending them difficult.
The WHO currently advises all people, vaccinated or not, to continue wearing masks when around others.
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said Tuesday that the global health body advises governments to continue emphasising proven public health and social measures, including masks, “as long as there is community spread”.
There was community spread when the CDC issued its May 13th guidance. The United States that day recorded almost 50,000 new Covid cases. But vaccination rates were dipping. The message about masks appeared to be an attempt to incentivise the shots.
That gambit may have failed: the number of Covid vaccine doses given out this week across the United States is less than half of what it was the week of May 13th. Many unvaccinated Americans appear to have ditched their masks anyway. …
Reinstating mask rules that have been lifted can be difficult. Israel has struggled with mask compliance since June 25th [when the mask mandate was reimposed just 10 days after it was lifted].
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Reporters had to be handed face masks at a White House event on Tuesday evening, minutes after the CDC updated its advice, according to MailOnline.