Asked Sunday whether political pressure played a role in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's about-face on masks, the agency's chief said the deciding factor was science. "It certainly would have been easier if the science had evolved a week earlier," Rochelle Walensky said on Fox News Sunday. The CDC announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks indoors in most cases. Just before the change, Walensky was appearing in Congress, answering questions and defending the agency from lawmakers who want restrictions ended. Asked by host Chris Wallace whether she could confirm that that political pressure had no effect on the new policy, Walensky said, "Yes, I can." The evidence has been changing quickly, she said. "I'm delivering the science as the science is delivered to the medical journals," Walensky said.
The CDC has been criticized for the change, and Walensky said it wasn't intended to mean that everyone can take off their masks now. "If they're vaccinated, they are safe. If they are not vaccinated, they are not safe," she said on This Week, per ABC. Anyone who hasn't had their shots should still mask up, Walensky said—"or better yet, get vaccinated." Nor does it mean that Americans are being advised to not wear masks. Infectious disease experts worry about vulnerable populations, given that it's not possible to tell by looking who's had a coronavirus vaccination and who hasn't. There's not a great answer for that. "We still have children under the age of 11, and they should obviously still be wearing masks," Walensky said. Anyone who's unvaccinated should not only wear a mask but practice social distancing and other measures that have been recommended all along, she advised. (Read more face masks stories.)