On Sunday, two of the country's top coronavirus
health experts pushed back against Republican lawmakers' claims that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
's recent relaxation of mask guidelines was political, insisting that the sudden change was based on evolving science from recent scientific studies.
“It evolved over the last week,” CDC
Director Rochelle Walensky said on “Fox News Sunday
” of the scientific evidence that supports the national public health
agency easing its indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated Americans on Thursday. “The cases came down over the last two weeks. And so that’s — I delivered it as soon as we had that information available.”
Walensky used two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday — the same day the CDC changed its guidance — to justify the organization's decision.
Dr. Anthony Fauci
, the nation's top infectious disease expert, also supported the CDC's changes, stating that new evidence shows that fully vaccinated people
, whether wearing a mask or not, have a "very, very low likelihood" of transmitting the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says the new CDC mask guidance is motivated by an “accumulation of data on demonstrating in the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines
.” pic.twitter.com/fSdLxK6mAr — Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) May 16, 2021
“Even when there are breakthrough
infections with vaccinated people, almost always the people are asymptomatic, and the level of virus is so low that it makes it extremely unlikely — not impossible, but extremely unlikely — that they’re going to transmit it,” he said in a separate interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
Walensky and Fauci's responses come after Republican lawmakers questioned the timing of the CDC's decision last week, with some speculating that it was staged by the White House
as a distraction from other pressing global and national issues.
“While the new mask guidance is encouraging, the CDC and my Far Radical Left colleagues only chose to do this to distract from the consequences of catastrophic policy decisions that have been heard around the world,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told Fox News.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) tweeted, “Why today? The science hasn’t changed.”
We also now know that the vaccine is working in the public in the same way it worked in clinical trials – it is over 90% effective. Fantastic news! https://t.co/krswMJGnRR— Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) May 15, 2021
This criticism comes after Senate Republicans
complained to Walensky during a hearing on Tuesday that the CDC was not moving
quickly enough to lift restrictions and was exaggerating the risks of outdoor transmission.
In response to the latest round of concerns raised in the wake of Thursday's update, Fauci reiterated that the CDC's changes are based on the most recent information.
“The accumulation of all of those scientific facts, information, and evidence led the CDC to make the decision that now, when you’re vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask, not only outdoors, but also indoors,” he explained.
The CDC still advises fully vaccinated people to wear masks
in crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, prisons, and homeless
shelters, but they are no longer required to wear a mask outside and in crowds.
As a country, Walensky believes it would be "premature" to declare victory, but she believes "we are in a good place right now" based on current case counts.
“I am cautiously optimistic, but my vigilance remains unchanged,” she said.
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