CDC Director visits St. Louis, speaks with News 4

Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 5:48 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2022 at 2:39 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) -The Director for the Centers for Disease Control spent Thursday in St. Louis, visiting with students and staff at Washington University School of Medicine and touring Care STL in North St. Louis.

The visit comes just 24 hours after Dr. Rochelle Walensky took part in a White House Response Team Briefing regarding changes to COVID-19 mitigation strategies. In the last week, the CDC updated its guidance for masks based on community levels of coronavirus.

We are in a place right now with a lot of population immunity from vaccines, boosters and prior disease that I do think we can move safely back to those things we know and love,” Dr. Walensky told News 4.

As the United States shifts away from a pandemic and begins to treat COVID-19 as an endemic, we asked Walensky if COVID-19 boosters will become as common as annual flu shots.

“It’s something we’re not ruling out but we don’t know the answer to that,” she said. “Certainly a few other countries are starting to embark on a fourth dose, but we’re not positive we’re going to be there. We very well may, and we’re going to have the science emerge and evolve to lead us to those answers.”

The CDC has faced increased criticism throughout the pandemic, as some Americans are frustrated with the changing guidance and rules put out by the CDC. We asked Walensky how the agency will rebuild trust with the public following years of criticism.

“It is of course challenging because the science is changing with every new variant,” she said. “With every new variant we have so much to learn and with every vaccine we have so much to learn and we have to change with it. That’s our job at the CDC.”

We took some viewer questions straight to the director, including several who asked how the CDC changed course about transmission and contracting COVID-19 despite someone being considered fully vaccinated.

“The science changed,” she said. “In May when we took masks off and said if you’re fully vaccinated you can’t transmit, even if you were to get a breakthrough infection, that was with the alpha variant and that was true with the alpha variant and all the science proved that. Fast forward several months and we have the delta variant, all of a sudden we have a more severe variant, a more transmissible variant and a variant that if you are vaccinated and got a breakthrough case it now became a case where you could transmit.”

Walensky said the current federal guidelines requiring masks on airplanes is set to expire March 18 and conversations are ongoing about its future. Additionally, she said changes could come to inbound, fully vaccinated U.S. travelers returning from international travel.