Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), took off her protective mask at a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Funding in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.
Greg Nash | Acesparks | Getty Images
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Valensky said on Wednesday that the U.S. agency would instruct state and local health officials to set guidelines for wearing the mask even after the World Health Organization called on fully vaccinated people to continue the practice.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “always said that local politicians should develop policies for the local environment,” Valensky said in an interview with NBC’s “TODAY” program. He said the agency’s guidelines widely recommend that vaccinated people not wear masks.
“There are areas in this country where a third of the people are vaccinated, and they have a low vaccination rate,” Valensky said. “In the case of unvaccinated people, there are areas where they are more susceptible to the disease. So in those areas, we always said, please see, give suggestions.”
He added: “If you’re vaccinated, you’re safe from the options that circulate in the United States.”
Comments from the CDC director A few days after World Health Organization officials urged fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks, stay away from social distance and take other pandemic safety measures, the highly contagious delta option is spreading rapidly around the world .
According to the World Health Organization, Delta is currently expected to become the dominant variant of the disease in at least 92 countries, including the United States. In the U.S., strain prevalence doubles every two weeks.
World Health Organization officials on Friday urged fully vaccinated people to continue to “play safe” as much of the world remains unvaccinated and highly contagious options such as delta are spreading and escalating in many countries.
“People can’t feel safe just because they take two doses. They need to protect themselves,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO Assistant Director-General for Medicines and Health Products.
The World Health Organization’s comments were a complete exit from the CDC that fully vaccinated Americans could walk without a mask in most conditions and cause widespread confusion.
Valensky said Wednesday that the World Health Organization has made recommendations to the global population, noting that many regions of the world are not vaccinated.
“When the WHO makes these recommendations, they follow that perspective,” he said.
However, while many states have lifted most of the mask restrictions, places like Mississippi are advising residents to continue wearing masks indoors.
Delta is currently the dominant option in Mississippi and only 31% of the state’s population is vaccinated, state health officials said Tuesday night. 96% of new Covid cases are unvaccinated people, they added.
– Rich Mendez from Acesparks contributed to this report.