CDC director says vaccinated people are 'safe' from Delta variant and don't need to mask up despite WHO guidance

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in the US. NBC News
  • Vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in the US, the CDC Director said Wednesday.

  • The World Health Organization last week urged vaccinated people to wear masks amid the spread of the Delta variant.

  • But vaccinated people are "safe" from all variants spreading in the US, the director said.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Rochelle Walenksy, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that fully vaccinated people were "safe" from all variants of COVID-19 spreading in the US and do not need to wear masks.

Walensky was asked by NBC News anchor Savannah Guthrie about whether masks were presently necessary among vaccinated people during an appearance Wednesday on the "TODAY" show.

Walensky said Guthrie was "exactly right" in saying the CDC does not believe that vaccinated people need to wear masks to protect themselves from COVID-19, even amid the spread of the Delta variant, which is believed to be more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

"If you're vaccinated you're safe from the variants that are circulating here in the United States," she said.

The World Health Organization created confusion in the US last week when it recommended that vaccinated people continue to wear face masks and practice other preventative measures - like physical distancing - to stem the spread of the disease amid the spread of the Delta variant.

The CDC in May eliminated nearly all masking requirements for vaccinated people, while it recommended that unvaccinated people keep their masks on, especially in indoor settings. Business and all US states followed suit in ditching mask mandates.

According to CDC data, more than 54% of the total US population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19. Just over 46% are fully vaccinated against the disease, according to the data.

But Walensky said Wednesday that the WHO needs to make recommendations in a global "context," where people are vaccinated at far fewer levels than they are in the US.

"The WHO has to make guidelines and provide information to the world," Walensky said. "Right now we know if we look across the globe, less than 15% of people around the world have been vaccinated. And many people of those have really only received one dose of a two-dose vaccine. There are places around the world that are surging.

"Here in the United States, we're fortunate. We have three vaccines that we know are safe and effective," she added.

But Walensky reiterated that local governments and agencies were best suited to make decisions for their own areas, especially in areas of the US with lower vaccination rates, she said.

Officials in Los Angeles County, California, on Monday, recommended "everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as a precautionary measure.

"Those masking policies are not to protect the vaccinated - they're to protect the unvaccinated," Walensky said Wednesday.

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