Masks, vaccination could halt coronavirus surge, CDC leader says

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adjusts her face mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this Thursday, March 18, 2021, file photo. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool, File)

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adjusts her face mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this Thursday, March 18, 2021, file photo. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool, File)

Dr. Rochelle Walensky says new mask-wearing guidance, coupled with higher rates of vaccination against COVID-19, could halt the current escalation of infections in “a couple of weeks.”

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told “CBS This Morning” she hopes more stringent mask-wearing guidelines and other measures won’t be necessary as the country heads into the fall.

“We can halt the chain of transmission,” she said. “We can do something if we unify together, if we get people vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated, if we mask in the interim, we can halt this in just a matter of a couple of weeks.”

With the delta variant fueling a surge of infections across the country, the CDC on Tuesday recommended even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in areas where the variant is prevalent.

Walensky says the new guidance was prompted by data that vaccinated people can pass on the virus. However, the vast number of infections are occurring in unvaccinated people, she noted. Walensky said 80% of the counties with the highest number of infections have less than 40% of people vaccinated.

The nation is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. The guidance on masks in indoor public places applies in parts of the U.S. with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week.

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