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CNN host presses CDC chief on mask guidance: 'Why the hell' do vaccinated 'have to pay the price'

CNN host John Berman on Wednesday pressed the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on why the agency updated its guidance to recommend that many Americans wear masks again, including vaccinated individuals.

"You can understand the frustration in those of us who are vaccinated saying, 'Why the hell do I have to pay the price for this?' " Berman told CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on "New Day."

"Right," Walensky responded, before seeking to explain the new guidance.

"We're asking everyone in those areas of orange and red to mask up," she said, adding people who are fully vaccinated and are in a red or "high-risk" area of transmissibility have a "reasonably high chance" of still spreading the virus to other people. 

"For every 20 people, one or two of them could get a breakthrough, they may only get mild disease, but we wanted them to know they could bring that mild disease home, they could bring it to others," she said. 

The CDC's new guidance, released Tuesday, has been criticized by some outside public health experts as confusing, given that many Americans don't know if they are in an area classified as high risk for transmission of the contagious delta variant.

The delta variant is now accounting for the majority of new cases in the United States, and Walensky acknowledged in the CNN interview that the rise in cases can be attributed primarily to the spread of the coronavirus from unvaccinated people to other unvaccinated individuals.

Still, the CDC suggests even vaccinated people wear masks in some situations if they are in an area with a "substantial" or "high" COVID-19 transmission level. In those counties, the agency recommends Americans wear masks in crowded indoor environments, such as grocery stores, arenas and theaters.

President Biden is reportedly weighing a policy that would require all civilian federal workers to receive an inoculation as a condition of employment and several states and cities have indicated they will require the same of teachers, doctors and other workers.   

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb predicted during an interview on CNBC earlier Wednesday that the country could be past the delta variant surge of the virus within a few weeks.

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