The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a set of updated guidelines on Friday, which allow Americans to travel internationally and domestically without a negative Covid-19 test, as long as they received their last vaccine shot no less than two weeks before departure. Walensky announced the new rules at a White House press conference on Friday.
Travelers should still wear masks and practice social distancing, but won’t have to quarantine upon return.
While the news was no doubt well received by frustrated Americans and the beleaguered airline industry, Walensky immediately tempered her optimism.
Despite saying it was “low risk” to do so, Walensky reminded listeners that cases of Covid-19 are on the rise in the US, and regardless of vaccination status, the CDC is still “not recommending travel at this time.”
“The science on Covid-19 is constantly evolving,” Walensky stated. However, so too is Walensky’s messaging. The CDC was forced earlier this week to walk back a statement by the CDC boss on Tuesday, in which she declared that “vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick, and that is not just in the clinical trials but it’s also in real world data.”
Her statement came a day after a CDC study found that vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission by up to 90%. This study provided the impetus for the latest relaxation in guidelines too, but the CDC immediately followed her shot of hope with a chaser of reality.
“Dr. Walensky spoke broadly during this interview,” an agency spokesman told The New York Times on Thursday. “It’s possible that some people who are fully vaccinated could get COVID-19. The evidence isn’t clear whether they can spread the virus to others. We are continuing to evaluate the evidence.”
One year into the coronavirus pandemic, the public has gotten used to shifting guidelines and conflicting advice. White House coronavirus adviser Anthony Fauci has drawn flak for his own fluctuating opinions, most notably his insistence at the outset of the pandemic that face masks were unnecessary, and his repeated discounting of the idea that “herd immunity” as a result of prior infection, plus vaccines, may shortly resolve the pandemic.
More than 50 million Americans are now vaccinated, and according to CDC figures, more than 150 million individual doses have been administered. To date, more than 31 million cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the US, along with 566,000 deaths.
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