CDC chief defends eased mask mandate, says new schools guidance coming soon: Live COVID-19 updates

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday defended the latest easing of mask mandates and said her agency is working on new guidance for the school year that will begin in three months in some districts.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, in a series of interviews with Sunday morning news shows, said “evolving science” drove the decision to update the government’s guidance to allow those fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to shed their masks in most circumstances. Walensky denied that the decision was politically driven as Americans grow weary of wearing masks.

“Right now, the data, the science shows us that it’s safe for vaccinated people to take off their masks,” she said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “I, as the CDC director, promised the American people I would convey that science to you as we know it.”

Walensky was asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether changes are coming in guidelines for schools, where masks and social distancing remain policy mainstays.

“Our school guidance to complete this school year will not change, and we will be working on school guidance for the fall,” she said. “We need to update our school guidance, our child care guidance, our camp guidance our travel guidance. We have a lot of work we need to do.”

Walensky said it was “premature” to declare victory over the pandemic.

“We have to remain humble. We’ve had way too many curveballs,” she said. “I have cautious optimism, but my vigilance hasn’t changed.”

Also in the news:

►Despite the CDC’s new masking guidelines, face coverings will still be required when shopping at some of the nation’s major retailers. At least for now.

►Universal Orlando and Disney World both announced that guests will no longer be required to wear masks while outdoors.

►British health workers, aided by the army, distributed coronavirus tests door-to-door Saturday in two towns in northern England, seeking to contain a fast-spreading variant that threatens plans to lift all lockdown restrictions next month.

►Yale University is requiring its faculty and staff to get coronavirus vaccinations before the fall term, extending a requirement already imposed for students.

►A federal judge has dismissed a civil lawsuit a fitness gym filed against a Mississippi city claiming the city violated business owners’ rights when it forced non-essential businesses to close to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had almost 33 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 585,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 162 million cases and almost 3.4 million deaths.

More than 344 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and more than 270 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 121 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 37% of the population.

📘 What we’re reading: Retailers started announcing changes to face mask policies for fully vaccinated customers a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new masking guidelines. Here are the stores dropping masks.

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New mask rules trust Americans to be honest. Experts say they’ll lie.

The CDC’s announcement Thursday that fully vaccinated people largely no longer need to wear a mask has left many Americans wondering: If there are no enforcement measures, won’t people just lie about their vaccination status? Public health officials have admitted that the honor system will play a large role in the new rules.

There’s long been talk of a “vaccine passport” model of enforcement in the U.S., where vaccination status grants or limits a person’s ability to travel or enter certain spaces. But such a program is mostly a theory currently, and multiple businesses have announced that they won’t be asking customers to prove their vaccine status if they shop unmasked.

And while businesses and politicians say they trust Americans to be honest, experts on human behavior aren’t so sure. Read more here.

‘Vaccine passports’ are coming, experts say

No shirt, no shoes, no vaccine – no service. That’s the future critics of “vaccine passports” fear as Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely live more normal lives, now including spending time in most indoors settings without a mask. The notion that a “passport” could separate the vaccinated from the unvaccinated has sparked fears of a dystopian future where a person’s health decisions would limit where they could travel, where they could shop, what events they could attend and whether they would be asked to wear a mask.

But many public health experts are exasperated by the controversy, given that Americans have long been expected to provide proof of vaccination in some circumstances.

“It’s not a new idea that you would document whether or not you’ve been vaccinated and share that information at certain points,” said Rebecca Fielding-Miller, a professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health at the University of California, San Diego. “This is something we already do.” Read more here.

Contributing: The Associated Press

A view of the beach of Mondello, Sicily, crowded with sunbathers after the slowdown of the COVID virus allowed the reopening of beaches in Sicily.

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