Decisions are complicated; it is difficult, experts say, to issue a single prescription for a country as varied as the United States.
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The CDC’s current masking recommendations, for example, advise state and local authorities to adopt indoor masking policies in areas of the country with high transmission. A color-coded map on the agency’s website shows the entire country in red; 99% of all counties are in a high transmission area, the agency said.
Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease expert who was consulted by the White House but declined to comment on those discussions, suggested that the CDC should consider new measures, such as vaccination levels or hospital capacity, when of updating its masking guidelines for the States.
“It’s a difficult situation, because of course people are really anxious to get some sense of normality back,” Dr Gounder said. “It’s highly variable across the country — the extent of transmission, the rate of vaccination — but the CDC produces guidance for the entire country, so it makes sense that they’re cautious.”
Meetings with outside experts aim to write an updated pandemic playbook that will, in part, address how to relax mitigations like mask-wearing, while also planning for the possibility that another new variant may emerge. Mr Zients referred to Wednesday’s sessions, but did not give specifics’, except to say they focused on ‘the steps we should take to move the country forward’.
Mr. Biden has previously signaled that he is looking beyond the pandemic. In remarks, at a press conference in January, he said the nation “is heading towards a time when Covid-19 will not disrupt our daily lives, when Covid-19 will not be a crisis, but something what to protect against. ” But the president also said then that “we are not there yet”.
Amelia Nierenberg contributed.