CDC director: Mask-wearing will ‘be hard to let go’ despite new guidance

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Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Friday that mask-wearing will “be hard to let go” of for some and argued Americans should be allowed to part with their masks in their “own due time” despite her agency’s newly loosened guidance for face coverings.

The remarks from Walensky came after the CDC on Thursday announced a significant relaxation in its mask recommendations, saying that Americans fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can now gather with other individuals without masks indoors and outdoors, even if some in their group remain unvaccinated.

Still, “people may want to continue wearing masks, because we’ve been wearing masks for 15 months, and it’s going to be hard to let go of them,” Walensky told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, adding: “We should be able to do that in our own due time.”

President Joe Biden made a similar case in his speech from the White House on Thursday as he promoted the new CDC guidance. Some Americans may “just feel more comfortable continuing to wear a mask” even after getting their vaccinations, he said.

“They may feel that way. So if you’re someone with a mask — you see them, please treat them with kindness and respect,” Biden said. “We’ve had too much conflict, too much bitterness, too much anger, too much polarization of this issue about wearing masks. Let’s put it to rest.”

Walensky also suggested on Thursday that fully vaccinated parents and teachers “may want to continue wearing masks to model behavior” for children who are not yet vaccinated or currently unable to get the vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to be given to kids 12 to 15 years old, and a CDC panel on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed the expansion of the shot.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s chief medical adviser, assessed on Friday that it was unlikely children younger than 12 would be able to get the vaccine before the start of the school year in the fall, when administration officials are pushing to resume five-day-per-week, in-person classes.

“I believe by the end of this calendar year, and probably sooner, that kids of virtually any age can get vaccinated,” Fauci told MSNBC. Elementary school-age children, however, will probably not be vaccinated prior to beginning of classes, he said.

“No. I don’t think so. … I believe that high school kids, adolescents certainly will be able to be vaccinated by the time we get to the fall year, but I think it’s going to take till the end of the calendar year to get elementary school kids vaccinated,” Fauci said.

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