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CDC director denies political pressure affected new mask guidelines

Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health Care: Biden touts 300 million vaccine doses in 150 days | Biden warns of 'potentially deadlier' delta variant | Public option fades with little outcry from progressives Biden warns of 'potentially deadlier' delta variant, urges public to get vaccine Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on Sunday said that the agency's recent decision to recommend that vaccinated people no longer wear masks had nothing to do with political pressure from lawmakers.

On "Fox News Sunday," host Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceSunday shows - Biden foreign policy in focus Pompeo defends Trump on Russia in Chris Wallace interview Lewandowski says Trump has not spoken to him about being reinstated MORE pressed Walensky to clarify what was behind the seemingly sudden shift in the CDC's recommendations for mask wearing, asking her to confirm that pressure from lawmakers such as Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyCentrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave MORE (R-La.) had nothing to do with the decision.

"Yes, I can [confirm]," Walensky said.

"I can tell you it certainly would have been easier if the science had evolved a week earlier and I didn't have to go to Congress making those statements, but I'm delivering the science as the science is delivered to the medical journals," Walensky said. "And, you know, it evolved over this last week. The cases came down over the last two weeks. And so that's — I delivered it as soon as I can when we had that information available."

Wallace questioned whether the CDC was being overly optimistic in relying on the "honor system" for people to abide by the new mask guidelines.

"We're still vaccinating somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million people a day. And so every day, more and more people are getting vaccinated. The honor system is, to be honest, with yourself," Walensky said. "If you are vaccinated, we are saying you're safe. You can take off your mask, and you're not at risk of severe disease or hospitalization from COVID-19. If you're not vaccinated, you are not safe. Please go get vaccinated or continue to wear your mask."

Walensky confirmed that there were no plans to roll out vaccine passports on the federal level but acknowledged there "will be places at local levels" that might require proof of vaccination.