WASHINGTON - Just days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stood firm on its relaxed mask guidelines, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the agency is considering a change as COVID-19 cases climb across the United States.
According to the Associated Press, Fauci told CNN that he’s taken part in conversations about altering the guidelines, something he described as being "under active consideration."
In May, the CDC issued guidance that said vaccinated people could go without masks in most settings — not including places like airplanes, buses and trains. Last week, a CDC spokesperson told FOX Television Stations, "At this time, we have no intention of changing our masking guidance."
Even so, a recent surge driven by the highly infectious delta variant has caused health officials to call for the return of mask requirements, regardless of vaccination status.
The three FDA-authorized vaccines offer robust protection against the virus and all of its variants were a crucial piece of America’s recovery from the pandemic.
But the vaccination effort slowed to a crawl in recent months, leaving large portions of the population unprotected against the virus that has killed more than 600,000 Americans.
Officials have spent recent months pleading with the unvaccinated to make an appointment to receive a dose. When incentives like cash and freebies failed, they turned to statistics that showed how the virus is primarily hospitalizing and killing the unvaccinated.
The CDC and White House have stressed multiple times that more than 99% of recent deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 have occurred among the unvaccinated.
"This is an issue predominantly among the unvaccinated, which is the reason why we’re out there, practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated," said Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden.
Data collected by the CDC shows more than 162 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against the virus. But certain states have poor vaccination rates, creating an ideal climate for the virus to thrive in.
Face Mask Required sign at baseball field, Astoria, Queens, New York. (Photo by: Lindsey Nicholson/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
"What I would really like to see is more and more of the leaders in those areas that are not vaccinating to get out and speak out and encourage people to get vaccinated," Fauci said.
Fauci, said some local areas where infection rates are surging are already urging individuals to wear masks in public regardless of their vaccination status.
He said those local rules are not incompatible with the CDC’s recommendation that the vaccinated don’t need to wear masks in public.
This story was reported from Atlanta. The Associated Press contributed to this report.