CNN “New Day” co-host John Berman on Wednesday pushed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky to explain why her agency is now instructing even Americans who have been vaccinated to wear masks again amid a rise in new COVID-19 cases stemming largely from unvaccinated Americans sickened with the Delta variant.
At one point during the segment, Berman noted the agency put out a new science brief on Tuesday that said the risk of transmitting the virus “is likely to be substantially reduced in vaccinated people,” before asking Walensky to comment on why the finding became irrelevant so quickly.
“The science that prompted [the] guidance is just days old, and in the coming days you will actually see the published information on the science that motivated” the sudden change in masking policy.
Berman responded by asking Walensky to “clarify” how much of the new variant transmission is coming from Americans who are vaccinated.
The CDC director demurred initially, noting that the “orange and red” regions of the country denoting the heaving concentrations of new infections involve mostly unvaccinated Americans. “If you look at that map, 80 percent of those counties that are red are from areas that have less than 40 percent of vaccinated people.”
She added that the guidance stemmed from the few vaccinated people who could still spread the variant.
Berman countered by clarifying that the new infections were “primarily coming from unvaccinated people to unvaccinated people,” to which Walensky agreed.
“So then, you can understand the frustration in those of us who are vaccinated saying, ‘Why the hell do I have to pay the price for this?'” Berman said.
“Right. So we’re asking everybody in those areas of orange and red to mask up,” Walensky explained.
“Here is the reason why — if you’re a vaccinated person and you’re in one of those areas, as you said, a sea of red, a sea of COVID, you have a reasonably high chance, if nobody is wearing a mask, to interact with people who may be infectious,” she continued.
“Every 20 vaccinated people, one or two of them could get a breakthrough infection. … They may only get mild disease, but we wanted them to know that they could bring that mild disease home,” she added. “They could bring it to others.”
Earlier in the segment, Walensky explained some of the science behind the changes.
“With prior variants, when people had these rare breakthrough infections, we didn’t see the capacity of them to spread the virus to others,” Walensky said on Wednesday’s New Day. “But with the Delta variant, we now see in our outbreak investigations that have been occurring over the last couple of weeks, in those outbreak investigations, we have been seeing that if you happen to have one of those breakthrough infections, that you can actually now pass it to somebody else.”
She noted the that CDC’s updated recommendations, which say, “To reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission,” are designed to warn vaccinated Americans they could still potentially becoming infected.
“That was the new science that prompted the guidance. And, it was not — it weighed heavily. I know this is not a message America wants to hear,” Walensky said.
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