ATLANTA - COVID-19 cases are climbing in the United States, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated it is not likely to reimpose its policy of requiring masks for everyone "at this time."
In May, the CDC issued guidance that said vaccinated people could go without masks in most settings. They are still required in places like airplanes, buses and trains.
Amid reports that the White House and CDC were discussing changing that guidance in response to the recent surge, a CDC spokesperson told FOX Television Stations, "At this time, we have no intention of changing our masking guidance."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Kevin Munoz, assistant press secretary, said the White House defers to the CDC.
"At the White House, we follow the guidance and advice of health and medical experts," Munoz said. "Public health guidance is made by the CDC, and they continue to recommend that fully vaccinated individuals do not wear a mask. If you are not vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask."
The CDC’s decision to roll back its mask requirements polarized Americans. Critics claimed unvaccinated people would take advantage of relaxed masks rules and live without the protection of a facial covering or vaccine.
And there’s data to support that worry became a reality. The CDC and White House have said multiple times that the recent surge in hospitalizations and deaths are nearly exclusively among the unvaccinated.
"There’s a clear message that is coming through: this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. "We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk. And communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well."
The U.S. reached a surplus in its vaccine supply in late April, meaning there are enough doses for every eligible American.
Officials have spent recent weeks pleading with the unvaccinated to make an appointment to receive a dose.
"If you’re not vaccinated, you remain at risk and our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and sadly deaths among the unvaccinated," Walensky said.
Walensky on Thursday said she worries the rise in cases could soon overwhelm the nation’s health care system.
"We are yet at another pivotal moment in this pandemic, with cases rising again and some hospitals reaching their capacity in some areas," Walensky said during a White House coronavirus press briefing on Thursday.
She urged unvaccinated Americans to get shots, saying, "We, together, are not out of the woods yet."
"We need to come together as one nation, unified in our resolve to protect the health of ourselves, our children, our community, our country and our future with the tools we have available," Walensky added.
This story was reported from Atlanta.