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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky told "Fox News Sunday" that political pressure had nothing to do with the agency's sudden announcement that fully vaccinated Americans can go without masks in most indoor settings.

Why it matters: Emerging evidence shows vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus, as COVID-19 cases and deaths drop. But the responsibility to uphold the abrupt policy change falls to individuals and businesses.

What she's saying: "I can tell you it certainly would have been easier if the science had evolved a week earlier and I didn't have to go to Congress making those statements, but I'm delivering the science as the science is delivered to the medical journals," Walensky told Fox News' Chris Wallace.

  • The agency's guidance change came just days after Walensky, during a Senate hearing Tuesday, defended the CDC's guidelines at the time telling all Americans to wear masks.

State of play: "This was not permission to shed masks for everybody, everywhere," she told NBC's Meet the Press. "This was really science-driven individual assessment of your risk."

  • "If they are vaccinated and they are not wearing a mask, they are safe. If they are not vaccinated and they are not wearing a mask, they are not safe."
  • "We're not counting on vaccine mandates at all. It may very well be that local, local businesses, local jurisdictions will work towards vaccine mandates. That is going to be locally driven and not federally driven," Walensky said.

Go deeper: New CDC mask guidance tests risk tolerance

Go deeper

Aug 24, 2021 - Health

Unvaccinated 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, CDC study says

Nurses reposition a COVID patient in the ICU in Torrance, Calif. Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Infection and hospitalization rates in late July were five and 29 times higher, respectively, among unvaccinated people in Los Angeles County than the fully vaccinated, according to a new report out Tuesday from the CDC.

Why it matters: Hospitals and state health officials have been warning that the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations is mostly attributed to unvaccinated adults.

Aug 24, 2021 - Health

Oregon governor announces outdoor mask mandate

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. Photo: Meg Roussos/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) on Tuesday announced a new statewide outdoor mask mandate requiring people to wear masks in most outdoor settings regardless of vaccination status.

State of play: Starting Friday, Oregonians will be required to wear masks outdoors when physical distancing is not possible. While the mandate does not apply to outdoor gatherings in private residences, masks are "strongly recommended" when people from different households cannot remain socially distanced.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court grants stay for indoor mask mandate — Neil Young demands Spotify take down music over vaccine misinformation — Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker