C.D.C. Director Warns Unvaccinated Remain at Risk
Vaccinated Americans may be looking forward to crowded beaches and packed backyard barbecues, getting back to what Dr. Rochelle Walensky described as “something closer to normal.”,
Despite gains against the virus, the C.D.C. director says unvaccinated people remain at risk.
By Dan Levin
- May 25, 2021
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered a hopeful message mixed with caution on Tuesday for Americans planning to celebrate the traditional beginning of summer with friends and family.
“If you are vaccinated, you are protected, and you can enjoy your Memorial Day,” the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said during a White House news conference. “If you are not vaccinated, our guidance has not changed for you, you remain at risk of infection. You still need to mask and take other precautions.”
The holiday weekend comes amid a national decline in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. All across the country, mask mandates are easing, restrictions are lifting and many states have gone back to business as usual.
After countless traditional Memorial Day events and other first rites of summer were canceled last year because of the pandemic, vaccinated Americans may be looking forward to crowded beaches and packed backyard barbecues, getting back to what Dr. Walensky described as “something closer to normal.”
As of Tuesday, 50 percent of those 18 or older in the U.S. were reported as fully vaccinated, according to data from the C.D.C. More than 61 percent of adults have received at least one shot, though the pace has been slowing. President Biden set a goal on May 4 of at least partly vaccinating 70 percent of adults by July 4 as the administration has shifted its strategy in order to reach those who may still not have gotten shots.
But Dr. Walensky also urged those who remain unvaccinated to add a new activity to their Memorial Day rituals. “I want to encourage you to take this holiday weekend to give yourself and your family the gift of protection by getting vaccinated,” she said. “We are on a good downward path, but we are not quite out of the woods yet.”
Dr. Walensky’s remarks come after the C.D.C. said this month that it was no longer necessary for fully vaccinated people to mask or maintain social distance in many settings. The change was a major step for the federal government toward coaxing Americans closer to a post-pandemic world, even as the spread of the virus persists the globe.
And as U.S. states and retailers gradually began adopting the guidance, being able to distinguish who was vaccinated or who was not essentially turned into an honor system that relies on unvaccinated people keeping their masks on in public.
Vaccination requirements have become a cultural flash point as the shots become more accessible.
Republican governors in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Montana and Texas have denounced vaccine passports, or digital proof of vaccination, and have issued executive orders restricting their use. On Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia signed an executive order that prohibits state agencies from using a vaccine passport program or requiring proof that people have been vaccinated against Covid-19.