Walensky, speaking at a White House COVID-19 team briefing, urged that even as cases decline following a surge of the highly transmissible delta variant, Americans must not become complacent ahead of the winter months.
“First, we’re really encouraged as we watch the COVID-19 cases come down from this delta surge, in this very moment,” Walensky said. “But, we all know that respiratory viruses … tend to thrive in winter months and colder weather. So, right now is not the time, as cases are coming down, to become complacent because we do know colder weather is ahead of us and we need to do all that we can – including vaccinating those 66 million people who have not yet been vaccinated – all we can in our prevention measures and our vaccination efforts to make sure that we don’t become complacent during this period of time.”
Walensky also said that the administration will be working to “scale-out pediatric vaccination” after authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and recommendations from CDC experts.
“It will take some time and as I just noted, as we head into these winter months we know we cannot be complacent. We also know that from previous data that schools that have had masks in place were three-and-a-half times less likely to have school outbreaks requiring school closure. So, right now we are going to continue to recommend masks in all schools for all people in those schools and we will look forward to scaling out pediatric vaccination during this period of time,” she said.
School mask requirements have seen some pushback from parents and a New Hampshire judge on Wednesday dismissed a request to stop enforcing a mask-wearing policy in Rockingham County school districts.
The White House announced Wednesday that children aged 5 to 11 would be able to get a Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 shot in just a matter of weeks.
Federal regulators will reportedly meet to weigh the safety and effectiveness of distributing low-dose shots to the roughly 28 million children in that age group.
As to school vaccination requirements, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said that decisions would be made at the state and local level, noting that “school vaccination requirements have been around for decades.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report