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Dr. Sanjay Gupta says the CDC mishandled announcement of new mask guidelines

Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that fully vaccinated people can be indoors and outdoors without wearing masks except when in health care settings, on public transportation, or in specified areas where masks are required.

When CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter asked about the press’ role in covering the return to normal, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, said, “We can report what the news is, but then we have to explain the relevance of it.”

Gupta said the CDC “made a critical error here in surprising basically everyone with a very significant change.” He added that just days before the announcement was made, he spoke to senior leaders at the CDC who told him indoor masking would probably be the last thing to be lifted because “it is so effective and it’s not that hard to do in most situations — just to put a mask on.”

Another point of concern is the lack of guidance on how best to implement these new guidelines, and if the loosened restrictions could potentially increase the risk of infection for those who cannot yet get vaccinated and the immuno-compromised.

The announcement created a domino effect in the business world, prompting companies to announce that they would lift mask mandates for vaccinated customers in most cases. Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Costco, for instance, are no longer requiring vaccinated customers to wear masks in stores. But Walmart did send out a letter Friday noting, “masks will also continue to be required by some city and state ordinances, and we will follow those requirements.”

Following sweeping changes to mask and social distancing guidance for fully vaccinated people, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that the agency is asking businesses to help workers get vaccinated.

“What we’re saying to those essential workers is that if those workers are vaccinated, they are safe,” she said. “We are really asking the businesses to work with their workers to make sure that they have the paid time off to get themselves vaccinated so they can be safe.”

— CNN’s Naomi Thomas contributed to this report

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