Still Can ‘Have a Lot of Breakthrough Infections’ with ‘Most’ Vaccinated, Doesn’t Give Numbers for When to End Mask Wearing

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On Friday’s broadcast of the Fox News Channel’s “Special Report,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky would not give numbers on cases and hospitalizations that would prompt the CDC to not recommend wearing masks and stated that it’s “possible to have 95% protection from hospitalizations and still have a lot of breakthrough infections if most of your population is vaccinated.”

After playing a question from a viewer [relevant exchange begins around 4:40] about when we will get beyond mask mandates and, if other variants emerge, “at what percentage of cases of hospitalizations do you not recommend wearing masks?” Host Bret Baier asked, “Let me just put a finer point on it, we started this whole thing with trying to stop the spread and we were going to flatten the curve to prevent hospitals from being overrun. But now it does seem, Dr. Walensky…that we are trying to kill this virus entirely, and can you just answer his percentage point question?”

Walensky responded, “I think it’s really important to recognize that, as we think about the absolute number of people who are getting infected, that is related to the number of people who have disease, the number of people who are vaccinated, and how well those vaccines work. So, it is actually quantitatively possible to have 95% protection from hospitalizations and still have a lot of breakthrough infections if most of your population is vaccinated.”

Baier responded, “But is there a normalcy? I mean, is the next variant just around the corner, and is that something that we’re always going to be on this stop and start with putting masks on or not?”

Walensky answered, “So, I want to just articulate that this was not news that I expected the American people to welcome. This weighed heavily on me to have to do this. But I will also say that this virus has been humbling. I was taking care of patients a year ago. I joined the CDC six months ago. And the science continues to change, and while that is neither simple nor easy to convey, it is my responsibility to keep the American people safe. And as that science evolves, I evolve — with the CDC, the guidance. What I will say is I continue to be humbled by this virus. I have no interest in continuing mask guidance, and the best way to stop a new variant from spreading is to have less virus out there and the best way to do that is to get people vaccinated and to mask up until they are.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett





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