Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the top infectious disease experts in the U.S., recently explained why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided to change its face mask guidance.

What changes did the CDC make?

Last week, the CDC said that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear face masks in most indoor or outdoor settings, as I wrote for the Deseret News. The changes came after the CDC faced heavy criticism for acting too slow on making adjustments to its guidelines.

  • “If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, per ABC News.
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The CDC cautioned Americans to still wear masks if they’re indoors near large crowds or at places that require them, like businesses, health care settings and public transportation.

Dr. Fauci on the CDC changes

Fauci told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the CDC made the decision to change its mask guidelines “based on the evolution of the science” of how the COVID-19 vaccine is impacting people in real-world settings.

  • “The underlying reason for the CDC doing this was just based on the evolution of the science,” he said, according to CBS News. “But if in fact this serves as an incentive for people to get vaccinated, all the better. I hope it does actually.”

Fauci said the decision was based on three scientific facts the CDC has learned:

  1. The COVID-19 vaccine is effective in stopping coronavirus infection in real-world settings.
  2. The COVID-19 vaccines can prevent infection and symptoms from the new variants.
  3. It’s unlikely that a vaccinated person can transmit COVID-19 to others if they do become infected.
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  • “The accumulation of all of those scientific facts, information and evidence brought the CDC to make that decision to say now when you’re vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask, not only outdoors, but you don’t need to wear it indoors,” he said.

Do experts agree?

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CNN medical analyst Leana Wen said the new CDC guidelines still put people at risk, especially those who are immunocompromised.

  • “They were overly cautious and now I think they are throwing caution to the wind,” Wen said of the CDC’s guidelines.
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