Dr. Walensky On The Criticism Of CDC’s Confusing Guidance

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CNBC transcript: CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” tonight

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WHEN: Today, Wednesday, May 12th

WHERE: CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky Discusses Criticism Of CDC's 'Confusing' Guidance

SHEPARD SMITH: Dr. Rochelle Walensky now, speaking of guidance, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Walensky, thank you. Appreciate your time. I want to talk about kids and COVID shots because it's such great news and we will, but on this criticism on guidance – you've heard it. There is confusion. Has the CDC lost its sort of lofty perch and if so how do you plan to get it back.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY: Good evening and thanks so much for having me on. Thank you for the question. These issues are complex, the science is evolving the science is moving and we are following the science, each and every day, and our guidance is evolving as the science evolves. I am really confident at how we as the CDC are doing with regard to following that science, keeping Americans safe. Our case rates are down dramatically our vaccine rates are up dramatically. And what we're really trying to do is ensure that as we get cases down, as we get vaccines into arms, as we give these vaccines now to 12-to-15-year-olds, we follow the science and do exactly what the science says we should.

SMITH: All true and exciting. You know, Dr. Kavita Patel, the health policy director for the Obama White House, was on this news hour last night. Listen.

Sound from interview with Dr. Kavita Patel: I think the CDC’s credibility is eroding as quickly as our cases of Coronavirus are eroding. And Shep, that's not good news because we do need workplace guidance, we need school guidance.

SMITH: When will we get that clarity? Workplaces and schools. We need it.

DR. WALENSKY: Right. So we have – since our vaccines have been rolling out, we have updated our guidance three times. Indeed, every time we update, new science evolves. Today we have vaccines available now for 12-to-15-year-olds, they're going to have to evolve again, and I'm really enthusiastic about updating them very soon.

SMITH: Everybody in my workgroup is wearing a mask. Everyone. Why do we have to? We're all vaccinated, why do we have to wear masks?

DR. WALENSKY: So we have to look at the science with regard to how the vaccine has worked in the real world setting. How that vaccine –

SMITH: But isn't it true doctor – and forgive the interruption – but isn’t it true that once you’re masked, the science shows that if you're around others who are masked, you’re ok?

DR. WALENSKY: Once you're vaccinated, yes?

SMITH: That is what I meant. Once we are all vaccinated, you know, it's like, what do I get for being vaccinated? Can’t I take this off?

DR. WALENSKY: Right, so we were looking for signs to ensure that the vaccine works just as well in the real world setting as it did in the trials. We need to ensure that the vaccines are working against all of the circulating variants that we have here in the United States. We're following that carefully. And then we need to make sure that you're not an asymptomatic carrier, if in fact you're vaccinated. So all of that science is emerging, that's what we're following and we will use to update our guidance,

SMITH: I'm running short but I have two more questions. First, the former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb called for rolling back some of those mask rules now. Listen.

Sound from interview with Dr. Scott Gottlieb: I think we should start lifting these restrictions as aggressively as we put them in. We need to preserve the credibility of public health officials to perhaps reimplement some of these provisions as we get into next winter if we do start seeing outbreaks again. I think the only way to earn public credibility is to demonstrate that you’re willing to relax these provisions when a situation improves.

SMITH: Is he right or do you disagree?

DR. WALENSKY: We are looking forward to updating our guidance very soon.

SMITH: I hear there might be something tomorrow. Can you give us an understanding of what we might be getting because there is widespread frustration.

DR. WALENSKY: We are looking forward to updating our guidance very soon.

SMITH: Ok, we'll be watching tomorrow. One last thing. Shots for the kids. Will this help us slow the spread and are you changing camp and school guidance based on today's news about the shots?

DR. WALENSKY: Yeah, I'm really enthusiastic about being able to get our 12-to-15-year-olds vaccinated. What we do know is that we've been vaccinating our older populations, we have been seeing more and more cases in our younger populations, in our early 20s or teens as well. And so I think that this is going to be a critical step. There are 17 million 12-to-15-year-olds who have just qualified or are just now eligible to be able to get this Pfizer vaccine as of today. I do think that this is a game changer. If you are looking for a vaccine, you can text your zip code to 438829 and you can find all of the places that you can get a vaccine and I'm really enthusiastic about this new.

SMITH: I got mine and almost shed a tear it was so fantastic. Might tomorrow I learn you don't have to wear those masks when you're outdoors all the time, or maybe if you're just with workers who are all vaccinated, you don't have to wear your mask, maybe?

DR. WALENSKY: Stay tuned.

SMITH: And we will. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, it’s a pleasure and an honor. Thank you.