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CDC director Rochelle Walensky during a House hearing on Capitol Hill in April. Photo: Amr Alfiky-Pool/Getty Images

Adolescents vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to remove face masks if they're outside at summer camps, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Critics had called CDC guidance, issued last month, stating that everyone at summer camps should be masked unless eating, drinking or swimming "unfairly draconian."

Driving the news: With the Food and Drug Administration preparing to authorize the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, Walensky clarified the policy at a news conference Wednesday.

What she's saying: "If we have authorization for 12- to 15-year-olds and they can get vaccinated before going to camp, that's what I would advocate for so that they can take their masks off outdoors," Walensky said.

  • "What we're really trying to avoid in this camp guidance is what we saw in outbreaks in camps last summer."

Go deeper

Many Republicans reject latest CDC mask guidance

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) speaks during a press conference on June 8. Photo: Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

Republican lawmakers across the United States are speaking out in opposition to Tuesday's recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people wear face masks in areas with high COVID transmission rates.

Why it matters: The Delta variant is driving up case rates across the country, with roughly 46% of counties across the U.S. currently classified as areas with high transmission rates.

Jul 28, 2021 - Health

Ex-FDA chief predicts CDC mask guidance will have "negligible impact"

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CNBC Wednesday that he believes the updated CDC mask guidance will have a "negligible impact" on the spread of the Delta variant, arguing that "we're not going to get enough bang for our buck" by telling vaccinated people to wear masks at all times.

Why it matters: Vaccinated people's risk of serious illness is still extremely low. But because there are simply too many unvaccinated Americans, the Biden administration is asking vaccinated people to shoulder some of the burden by resuming wearing masks, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.

Jul 28, 2021 - Health

The new mask logic

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Biden administration is essentially asking vaccinated Americans to help save the unvaccinated from themselves.

The big picture: America's "pandemic of the unvaccinated" has gotten bad enough that vaccine mandates are starting to catch on, and masks are coming back — in some cases, even for the vaccinated.