“I’m going to take a break here, I’m going to lose the script and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” she said, her eyes shining with tears. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential where we are at and so much to hope for. But right now I’m scared.
Her impassioned speech surprised many people, perhaps none more than her husband. “She’s not a mourner – on the contrary, I choke a lot more easily than she is,” he said. His openness signaled his “real anxiety” about the state of the pandemic, he added. “She deeply felt the weight of half a million deaths.”
On the day of her urgent plea, she appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” where she said those vaccinated “don’t carry the virus” – an overly optimistic statement that the CDC needs to go back. Later in the week, new guidelines from the agency said those vaccinated could travel safely, but Dr Walensky added that the agency did not want them to travel at all, a position that left some puzzled Americans.
The most recent case, when Dr Walensky announced that vaccinated people could go indoors without a mask, was supported by the latest research, scientists said. But many felt the agency rushed the decision to end mask use without considering areas of the country where infections were still high, and without grasping the mistrust and cultural conflicts the new advice would engender.
“The CDC has a good grasp of medical and epidemiological science, but what they misunderstood is the science of behavior, communications and working with other stakeholders,” said Dr Gounder. . “It was a big oversight.”
Data since the announcement seems to have proven Dr Walensky right: infections continue to drop, even though much of the country is reopening at a vigorous pace. And as promised, the agency has started issuing more practical masking guidelines for settings like summer camps (mostly no) and public transportation (yes).
Dr Walensky and the CDC declined to comment on how the mask recommendations were handled. But Dr Fauci said he believed a few small missteps were inevitable, and that Dr Walensky was a quick study.