Surgeon general defends CDC lifting mask mandate

Surgeon general defends CDC lifting mask mandate
© Getty

Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek MurthyFDA panel endorses COVID-19 booster shots for older Americans, rejects widespread use Facebook announces crackdown on 'coordinated social harm' campaigns Biden to speak at UN general assembly in person MORE on Sunday defended the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) decision to lift mask guidance for all vaccinated individuals amid criticism from leading health experts that the move may have been premature.

During an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Murthy contended that the decision was meant to give flexibility to individuals and localities to make their own decisions regarding mask mandates as the pandemic effort moves “into more of a local and regional response.”

“I think the CDC’s guidance around masks was intended actually to give flexibility to individuals and to localities, recognizing that in this next phase of the pandemic, as we move into more of a local and regional response based on people's vaccination rates and communities, that that guidance around what to do with mitigation measures like masks would also be tailored locally,” Murthy said.

“So when you see places like L.A. County and other parts of the country, where you see counties making decisions about masks that may be different from other counties, that's okay. They're doing that based on what's happening in their communities, based on vaccination rates and case counts,” he added.

Murthy also told host Dana BashDana BashManchin suggests pausing talks on .5 trillion package until 2022: report House is no easy road for Biden, Democrats on .5T package Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Manchin: key energy provision of spending package 'makes no sense' MORE that the guidance also gives individuals the ability to make their own personal decision when it comes to wearing a mask.

“As far as individuals are concerned, there's a similar flexibility there. Even though your risk of getting sick, especially seriously ill or transmitting the virus to someone else if you're fully vaccinated is low, there are some people who may decide that they want to continue wearing masks. Maybe they live in a community where there's a lot of virus, maybe they have unvaccinated people at home and they want to be extra cautious, and that is okay,” the surgeon general said.

“The CDC guidance gave flexibility to counties and individuals, and that's why you see differences in what people are doing across the country,” he added.

The CDC in May released new guidance that said individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, or maintain physical distance.

States began nixing their mask mandates following the new guidance.

The revised guidance, however, has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks as the number of new COVID-19 infections in the U.S. is growing, in part because of the rapid spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

Non-vaccinated individuals have accounted for the vast majority of new deaths and hospitalizations.

Former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome AdamsJerome AdamsFormer surgeon general: 'Unconscionable' for states to ban mask mandates Former Trump surgeon general says politicians are 'taking tools' away from public health offices Pence urges young conservatives to get COVID-19 vaccine MORE on Saturday published a lengthy Twitter thread that said he is worried that the CDC made its decision regarding masks prematurely and was a harmful move.

“Last year [Anthony] Fauci and I famously, prematurely, & wrongly advised against masks. I felt it was the best call at the time, but now regret it. I’m worried the CDC also made a similarly premature, misinterpreted, yet still harmful call on masking in the face of delta variant,” Adams wrote.

Las Vegas and Los Angeles County have both reinstated their recommendations for individuals, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to wear masks indoors.