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Walensky on the latest COVID variants and public health safety

Rochelle P. Walensky joins Washington Post Live on Friday, July 22. (Video: The Washington Post)
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As the country moves towards a “new normal” of living with coronavirus, the latest omicron variant BA.5 has stymied plans to move past pandemic precautions and has prompted questions about the proper response to deal with its continuing threat to public health. Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joins Washington Post Live for a conversation about the new coronavirus variants, the recent monkeypox outbreak and the path forward for public health safety.

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“I don’t have projections as of yet. I have seen projections that are depending on estimates that go from very high to very low. So, I don’t think that we have a stable estimate now to see what those projections will be…With the scale up of testing, with the scale up of information that we are getting out to providers, we anticipate that there will be more cases before there are less cases. We have seen now, two cases that have occurred in children. Both of those children are traced back to individuals who come from the men who have sex with men community—the gay men community. And so, when we have seen those cases in children, they have generally been what I call, ‘adjacent’ to the community most at risk.”- Rochelle P. Walensky, MD (Video: Washington Post Live)
“We have always an anticipation that there could be another Omicron sub-variant coming. And further, we have the potential that there could be another variant altogether coming and that is exactly what we are working to prevent. Many of these come from international settings, so we’re working closely with international partners. And [that’s] why it is so critically important to remain up to date on your vaccination.”- Rochelle P. Walensky, MD (Video: Washington Post Live)
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky commented on President Biden's covid protocols on July 22. (Video: Washington Post Live)
“We've had a very divisive country where it comes to vaccines. And that has only grown over the COVID pandemic…Another challenge that we have, data put out from the CDC…demonstrated that incoming kindergartners were less vaccinated than they had been in the year prior…We are at a real public health crossroads if we can't protect communities against preventable diseases."- Rochelle P. Walensky, MD (Video: Washington Post Live)
“It has been challenging for the entire two and a half years. When I came into the administration, I said that we were going to be making decisions based on science, that remains true. What I didn’t say…is that, that science moves, that science changes. And sometimes we have to make decisions in the absence of all the data and all the science that we would like to have before all of that information is available. That is very hard in a pandemic…My responsibility to the American people…is to deliver the best information that I have at the time and sometimes that has changed.”- Rochelle P. Walensky, MD (Video: Washington Post Live)
“CDC, of course, provides guidance and recommendations and thresholds, but in fact, we’ve always said that masking policies happen at the local and the jurisdictional level. We don’t make those mask-making policies, they happen locally. And so, we defer those polices to the local level and provide as much guidance as we can as to how to move forward.”- Rochelle P. Walensky, MD (Video: Washington Post Live)
“We’re in a very different situation with monkeypox. It’s a very different disease, a very different virus than SARS-CoV-2. With monkeypox we are standing on the shoulders of decades of research that has happened here at the CDC. We had a test for it that was already approved and we launched that test. We were able to do, immediately 6,000 tests throughout the country per week…and now we’re up to about 70,000 tests that we’re able to do in the country per week.”- Rochelle P. Walensky, MD (Video: Washington Post Live)

Rochelle P. Walensky, MD

Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention