CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Sunday warned state officials against lifting mask mandates, despite COVID-19 infections trending downward, after Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) rolled back the mitigation requirement in the past week.
Asked on “Meet the Press” whether it was too early for state officials to lift mask mandates, Walensky said “absolutely,” citing how nationwide there are still at about 100,000 cases a day and 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,” Walensky said. “It’s encouraging to see these trends coming down but they’re coming down from an extraordinarily high place.”
Walensky stressed that sending children back to school depends on the amount of community spread and that taking mitigation strategies seriously is necessary.
And as I said earlier, if we want to get our children back to school and I believe we all do, it all depends on how much community spread is out there,” Walensky said. “We need to all take responsibility to decrease that community spread, including mask wearing so that we can get our kids and our society back.”
Walensky also said the public can’t let its guard down, given the new and more contagious strains of the coronavirus that have been detected in the country.
“We have to continue wearing masks,” Walensky said. “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 issued a similar warning to state officials during her appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
Asked about Montana and Iowa lifting mask mandates, Walensky agreed that the move is “indeed” a mistake.
“I think we’re not out of the woods yet,” Walensky said. “We need to get our kids back to school. We need to get our communities back to some normal functioning before we can start thinking about letting up our mitigation strategies.”
On Friday, Walensky released updated guidance on reopening schools, which emphasized social distancing and mask wearing. The CDC’s updated guidance on reopening schools was issued weeks after President Biden issued an executive order mandating masks on federal property at the start of his presidency.