As national COVID-19 case numbers begin to fall and vaccination rates rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun to change some of the guidelines it's had in place since the beginning of the pandemic. Recently, this has included the suggestion that fully vaccinated people can be outdoors without face masks. But another set of guidelines from the agency that was criticized for being too harsh has also just been changed in light of recent developments. Read on to see what updates the agency made, and for more important updates, The CDC Says to "Avoid" Going Here, Even If You're Vaccinated.
The CDC says vaccinated adolescents and teenagers won't have to wear masks outdoors at summer camps.
The CDC's most recent change involves the guidance it released in late April outlining safety procedures for summer camps operating amid the pandemic. The 14-page document suggests multiple risk mitigation efforts, including recommending that campers and counselors stay socially distanced and emphasizing the use of face coverings during most activities—even while outside. "All people in camp facilities should wear masks at all times, with exceptions for certain people, or for certain settings or activities, such as while eating and drinking or swimming," the guidelines state.
But during a press conference on May 5, CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, announced that the agency had updated its summer camp guidance. Now, teenagers and adolescents aged 12 and up who are fully vaccinated will be able to take their masks off while outdoors.
Walensky says they're trying to learn from mistakes that were made last summer.
During the press conference, Walensky explained that the mask guidelines were based on CDC case studies of superspreader events linked to camps last summer. "So if you have five 10-year-olds who are on a soccer field, all in front of the same soccer ball, we're trying to make sure that there are not a lot of heavy breathing around a singular soccer ball with five kids around it at the same time," she explained.
Walensky also clarified that children under the age of 12 could also take their masks off outdoors while in small groups. "What we really are trying to do is ensure that all of these kids can have a really good camp experience and keep the camps open without any outbreaks," she said. And for more on when we might be able to move past the pandemic, America Will "Feel Close to Normal" by This Exact Date, COVID Expert Says.
Officials are preparing to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for use in children aged 12 and older.
News of the change comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is set to authorize the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents aged 12 to 15 in the coming days. Results of a recent trial released in March found the shots to potentially be even more effective in the younger cohort than in adults, The New York Times reported.
"We are prepared to move as quickly as we can after any kind of authorization," Andy Slavitt, COVID-19 adviser to the White House, said May 5. "We know that kids want to go to camp this summer. We know that parents want them to be safe. If they want that done without masks, vaccinations are the best answer."
Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted the previous guidance was "a bit strict."
The change also comes after critics took issue with the summer camp guidelines, with one calling them "unfairly draconian" for children. During a May 5 appearance on the Today show, Anthony Fauci, MD, chief White House COVID adviser, clarified his feelings on the CDC guidance for camps, telling anchor Savannah Guthrie: "I wouldn't call them excessive, but they certainly are conservative." He went on to add, "I think what you're going to start to see is really in real-time, continually reevaluating that for its practicality. Because you're right, people look at that, and they say, 'Well, is that being a little bit too far right now?'"
But even before news of the change came about, Fauci explained to Guthrie that the agency's process was rooted in research. "The CDC makes decisions based on science. They will continually reevaluate that," Fauci said. "You're right, it looks a bit strict, a bit stringent, but that's the reason why they keep looking at that and trying to reevaluate literally in real-time whether or not that's the practical way to go." And for more on where you shouldn't go, Dr. Fauci Just Said to Avoid This One Place, Even If You're Vaccinated.