WASHINGTON — Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the CDC is leaving it up to local officials to set guidelines for mask-wearing as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus surges in areas with low vaccination rates.
Walensky said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show that “we’ve always said that local policymakers need to make policies for their local environment,” but added CDC guidelines broadly indicate those who are vaccinated don’t need to wear masks.
Health officials in Los Angeles County are recommending people wear masks indoors in public places regardless of their vaccination status.
Separately, the World Health Organization has reiterated its longstanding recommendation that everyone wear masks to lessen the spread of the coronavirus.
Walensky told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday the “context in which the WHO is making recommendations is very different than us here in the United States” since less than 15% of the world is vaccinated.
As for the recommendation by officials in Los Angeles County, Walensky said “we are still seeing an uptick in cases in areas of low vaccination and in that situation, we are suggesting that policies be made at the local level.”
On Friday, the head of the World Health Organization said the COVID-19 delta variant, first seen in India, is “the most transmissible of the variants identified so far,” and warned it is now spreading in at least 85 countries.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the lack of vaccines in poor countries was exacerbating the delta variant's transmission.
As border restrictions and other public health measures are loosened across Europe, the U.S. and in other countries with high vaccination rates, WHO officials warned that this could lead to a resurgence of disease.