CDC director: Too early for states to roll back mask mandates

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CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Sunday said it was too premature for state officials to roll back mask mandates, arguing that while coronavirus metrics were trending down, cases and deaths were still too high.

“Absolutely,” Walensky told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked if it was too early for officials to do away with the mandates. “We are still at about 100,000 cases a day. We are still at around 1,500 to 3,500 deaths per day. The cases are more than two and a half fold times what we saw over the summer.”

New coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been decreasing in recent weeks. On Friday, the U.S. reported 101,030 new cases of the virus, compared with 218,020 new cases one month prior, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Officials in some states have begun to roll back mask mandates and other mitigation measures, particularly in light of increased vaccination.

Walensky argued that the downtrend in cases and other metrics should be seen in the context of where the country was during its recent crippling surge.

“It’s encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they’re coming down from an extraordinarily high place,” Walensky said.

She also warned that new, more contagious variants of the virus being detected in the U.S. meant the country could see another increase in cases and deaths.

“We can’t let our guard down,” Walensky said. “We have to continue wearing masks. We have to continue with our current mitigation measures. And we have to continue getting vaccinated as soon as that vaccine is available to us.”

Walensky’s comments come amid a push by the Biden administration to reopen schools. Her agency on Friday released updated reopening guidance which emphasized physical distancing and mask wearing. President Joe Biden in his first days in office issued an executive order mandating masks on federal property.

In a separate appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Walensky was probed on whether Americans would be able to safely meet without wearing masks by the end of 2021.

“I think that very much depends on how we behave right now,” she said.

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