CDC Director: Mask recommendations to stay in place until cases stay down

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)— Current masking recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are not going away anytime soon, the CDC Director said Friday.

On an interview on NBC’s "The Today Show," Dr.Rochelle Walensky told host Savannah Guthrie the current recommendations should stay in place until the number of coronavirus cases nationally stay down.

Guthrie asked Walensky when requirements will end, and asked the question within the context of pending approval for vaccines to be given to children ages 5 to 11, a group that is not yet eligible to get a shot. The belief is with federal approval, kids could start getting the vaccines as soon as November.

Walensky said while cases nationally are going down, there’s still a current 7-day average of more than 73,000 cases. At the beginning of September, CDC data showed a 7-day average of more than 161,000 cases. She also noted 63 million Americans who have not been vaccinated.

Additionally, she shared concern over the coming colder weather months, where respiratory viruses tend to "thrive."

"Right now, our hard work is to continue to get those cases down, to continue to get people vaccinated, not only our children, when and if they’re ready, but as well the 63 million who are not yet vaccinated at all," Walensky said. "And to continue those prevention measures until we can really get those cases down."

For background, the CDC asks everyone over the age of two to wear a mask when indoors, regardless of vaccination status. In New York State, masks are required in schools and certain government buildings.

Shortly after her appearance, Pfizer announced its vaccine is 91% effective in children 5-11. According to the Associated Press, more than 25,000 pediatricians and primary care providers already have signed up to get the shots into younger arms.

The AP also reports Moderna also is studying its COVID-19 shots in elementary school-age youngsters. Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger children as well, down to 6-month-olds. Results are expected later in the year.

Additionally, a CDC advisory board approved an expansion of booster shots to include Johnson&Johnson and Moderna, as well as a "mix and match" of which vaccine you choose to get.

Monroe County, like most counties in New York, remains as a "high transmission" area for the virus, though health leaders say it’s due to increased COVID testing, and does not necessarily reflect a true spike in cases.