Count National National Nurses United (NNU) among those taking issue with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for rolling back mask requirements for fully vaccinated people.
According to the guidance released by the CDC on Thursday, fully vaccinated people can go maskless indoors and outdoors, and no longer have to social distance.
NNU, the largest union of registered nurses in the country, released a statement the next day condemning the CDC — citing a high number of COVID cases in the U.S., concern about variants, and unanswered questions about vaccines.
And NNU found the new mask policy especially insulting on the heels of International Nurses Day, which was on Wednesday.
"This newest CDC guidance is not based on science, does not protect public health, and threatens the lives of patients, nurses, and other frontline workers across the country," said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. "Now is not the time to relax protective measures, and we are outraged that the CDC has done just that while we are still in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century."
However, Dr. Rochelle Walensky — the director of the CDC — told FOX News the new guidelines are, in fact, based on science and not the result of political pressure.
Walensky had previously said the CDC came to this decision "based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines and our understanding of how the virus spreads"
Scene setter images outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Atlanta, GA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
On Sunday, she pointed to recent studies involving real-world data that indicate vaccinated people rarely contract the virus. And if they do contract a breakthrough infection, their cases are milder, shorter and harder to spread to others.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said as much in a questions-and-answers video published by the Biden administration Saturday morning.
"The low level of infection in the community and the extraordinarily high effectiveness of the vaccines have brought us to the conclusion that it is now safe to put aside masks so long as you are vaccinated," said Fauci, the chief COVID advisor to President Joe Biden and the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
Even so, NNU pointed to racial disparities in America’s vaccination efforts, saying the mask rollback will disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous and people of color.
"There has been so much inequity in the vaccine rollout and racial inequity in who is a frontline worker put most at risk by this guidance. The impact of the CDC’s guidance update will be felt disproportionately by workers of color and their families and communities," said NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN.
This story was reported from Atlanta.