Fox News anchor Bret Baier challenged Dr. Rochelle Walensky — director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — directly during a Sunday morning interview, asking whether she believed confusing messaging on COVID-19 had driven the public to lose trust in her organization.
Walensky, who joined Baier on “Fox News Sunday” to discuss the most recent data on the current surge of infections — largely fueled by the rapid spread of the highly-contagious Omicron variant — and the newly-revised guidelines on testing and isolation for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and those who are showing symptoms of the virus.
“Dr. Walensky, you mentioned the confusion about the guidance and over the past year, the most recent example is obviously on isolation and testing,” Baier began, referencing the CDC’s recent announcement reducing the recommended isolation time after a positive test from ten days to five and eliminating the recommendation for a negative test prior to leaving isolation.
“But other guidance is the mask wearing, educators being vaccinated before returning to the classroom,” Baier continued. “Before you took this job officially, you emphasized that one of your primary goals was to restore public trust. But in this time, do you think that it’s fair to say that the trust and confidence of the public has gone down with the CDC?”
“Thank you, Bret. You know, this is hard,” Walensky replied. “We have ever-evolving science with an ever-evolving variant, and my job is to provide updated guidance in the context of rapidly rising cases. That is what we’ve done and I am here to explain it to the American people and I’m committed to continuing to do so and to continuing to improve.”
Baier went on to note that, even with the new guidance available, places like Georgetown University were still adhering to ten-day isolation protocols for students who were asymptomatic — in addition to relying on testing that could give a positive result from small amounts of dead virus even if the student in question was not infectious.
“What you say to the major companies and universities who are ignoring your new guidance and sticking to the ten days isolation or quarantine for asymptomatic people?” Baier asked.
Walensky said that the new guidance was meant for the general public, adding that larger corporations and universities should continue to make the decisions that worked best for them. “Many of these universities have kids living in multi-person rooms, so they’re going to have to adapt our guidance for the safety of their congregate settings,” she said.
“Right, but sticking them in a room for ten days, doesn’t that sound extreme to you?” Baier pressed, but Walensky again noted that in “congregate settings” guidance might need to be adapted for the situation.
“Our updated guidance actually says you can leave isolation after five days if you can wear your mask all of the time, including being able to eat meals alone so that you are not infecting others while you eat. That may need to be what’s happening in these congregate settings,” she added.
“Okay, so you would send that message to Georgetown, other universities, other companies that are at ten days?” Baier asked.
“No, what I would say is if you’re in a congregate setting, you have to adapt our guidance for that congregate setting. These guidances were meant for the general public,” Walensky replied.
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