The Biden administration is not yet changing the rules for the use of masks, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday.
During a White House COVID-19 briefing, Walensky said officials are “cautiously optimistic” about the direction of the pandemic, given the rate at which Omicron cases are declining across the country.
She added that the CDC is currently reviewing its guidance and that it will “be updated soon.”
Updates can be expected in late February or early March, giving President Joe Biden the opportunity to announce March 1, according to CNBC.
The White House has been criticized for delaying updating COVID-19 health advice, such as wearing masks, even as most states have sought to lift or lift restrictions in recent weeks.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has been dragged onto Twitter for saying his favorite part of learning is seeing kids smile, while some Democratic-led states like New York and California still face harsh criticism for abolition of the mandatory wearing of masks in bars and restaurants, but not in public schools.
At a briefing on Wednesday, Walensky acknowledged the weariness caused by public mandates two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky admitted she knew people were “seeking to cancel” COVID mandates, but said guidance would be updated “soon.”
“We know you have a lot of questions about what prevention strategies are really needed at the moment, especially since people are so eager to get rid of them,” the medical expert said.
She suggested that the White House is considering a new phase that involves moving away from the current stage while being ready for the threat of a new option.
“We want to give people a break from things like wearing masks when those rates improve, and then be able to turn to them again if things get worse,” Walensky explained.
“If and when we update our leadership, we will communicate it clearly. And it will be based on data and science.”
COVID testing chief Dr. Tom Inglesby emphasized the CDC’s stance during an interview with CNN earlier Wednesday morning, recommending that children use “any” face covering material available, despite research showing some cloth masks may not be effective in fighting the virus.
“Cloth masks are better than no masks. Surgical masks are better than cloth ones. Therefore, any mask available that is well suited for children should be used,” Inglesby told CNN.
The Omicron strain was first discovered by South African officials in late November and quickly took the world by storm. This caused a spike in COVID cases across much of the Western world, with the number of infections in the US skyrocketing to a record 800,000 per day in mid-January.
Despite the science, WH Covid advisor @T_Inglesby still says kids should be forced to wear masks:
“Cloth masks are better than no masks. Surgical masks are better than cloth ones. So any mask available that is good for kids should be used” pic.twitter.com/g9gBYZ2oag
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 16, 2022
However, Omicron quickly burned out and ran out of steam. Daily cases have plummeted to about 147,000 a day, a 40 percent drop from the last week, according to the CDC.
Walensky said at a briefing that the average COVID-related hospitalization rate has dropped by 28 percent.
COVID testing czar Dr. Tom Inglesby told CNN on Wednesday morning that children should continue to wear whatever mask they can find.
Deaths have also come down, dropping nine percent over the past week, according to the CDC. Death rates from Omicron have never reached the same heights as the Delta variant in the summer or the COVID surge in the winter of 2021, as the strain is milder than previous versions of the virus and the US population is now heavily vaccinated.
Experts are hopeful that its high infection rate, combined with the relatively mild nature of this option, means the end of the pandemic soon.
As the impact of the pandemic on American life begins to ease, pressure is mounting on President Joe Biden to change health advice.
The Democratic governors of New Jersey, New York, California, Connecticut, Oregon and Delaware announced last week that they were canceling their mask mandates.
In New York, state Republican lawmakers are exploring legislative options to circumvent Gov. Kathy Hochul’s mask rule for K-12 schools.
Democrats in California, meanwhile, have been accused of double standards after photos of celebrities without masks partying at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles over the weekend were followed by state health officials announcing school wearing rules would be in place until at least the end of the month. .
Meanwhile, Education Minister Miguel Cardona was criticized on Twitter for calling students’ faces his favorite part of being a teacher.
Education Minister Cardona, a former teacher, felt a similar reaction when he tweeted Tuesday night: “Today’s #LoveTeaching theme is ‘Amazing Tuesday’ where we have to tell a 6-word story describing why you are #LoveTeaching.”
“Mine: a smile on a student’s face.”
Republican lawmakers were quick to point out that teachers going to school today in some Democratic-ruled states are unlikely to share that view.
“Their smiles are still hidden! EXPOSE OUR CHILDREN!” This was stated by Rep. Eliza Stefanik of New York.
Representative Chip Roy of Texas responded on Twitter, “Really? I mean…’
The official Twitter account of the Republican Party also joined in the criticism.
“Haven’t seen one like this in years because of your authoritarian and unscientific mask mandate,” they wrote.
White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci warned on Monday that while the number of cases is “going in the right direction,” he doesn’t want anyone to “declare victory prematurely.”
Meanwhile, the number of new COVID-19 cases has dropped sharply following a week-long spike in Omicron.
“Well, if you look at the downward trajectory of cases and hospitalizations, it’s clearly going in the right direction,” he said on MSNBC.
“I mean, obviously the CDC is still recommending wearing a mask because of the infection rates we’re seeing, but I think the states see we’re moving in the right direction and they feel like they can just go back.” to attempts to return to some form of normality by lifting restrictions.
Fauci also warned that states should “be careful” in their decisions because making such decisions “prematurely” could have undesirable consequences.
He said that’s why the CDC “will continue to monitor these things and make changes to the advice as we see the trajectory continue to decline.”
“But it’s completely understandable why states at the local level look at their local situation and make decisions,” Fauci said.
“Here’s how it works. The CDC makes recommendations and the decision is made locally based on what’s going on in your particular location.”