Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, said on Sunday top US health officials were discussing whether to revise mask guidance for Americans vaccinated against Covid-19.
“This is under active consideration,” Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union, though he also emphasized that local governments can issue their own rules under current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Los Angeles county and St Louis, Missouri, have reinstated indoor mask requirements and other cities are weighing whether to do the same.
After a significant drop in Covid-19 cases because of the national vaccine campaign, infections are rising in all 50 states and Washington DC. The increases are highest in states with large groups of unvaccinated people. More than 610,000 have died from Covid-19 in the US.
At a White House on Thursday the surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, said 97% of hospital admissions and 99.5% of Covid deaths were occurring among unvaccinated people.
More than 162.7 million Americans are vaccinated – or 49% of the population, according to the CDC.
Fauci said local leaders, particularly in areas with low rates of vaccination, needed to lead outreach efforts to get people vaccinated.
He highlighted recent work by two prominent Republicans who have repeatedly criticized him: a Louisiana representative, Steve Scalise, and the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis.
“I was very heartened to hear people like Steve Scalise come out and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get vaccinated,’” Fauci said. “Even Governor DeSantis right now in Florida is saying the same thing. We’ve got to get more people who relate well to the individuals who are not getting vaccinated to get out there and encourage them to get vaccinated.”
Among those reporting they definitely won’t get vaccinated, 23% are Republican, 16% are independent and 2% are Democrats, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation vaccine monitor.
DeSantis sells merchandise which mocks masks and Fauci, but cases in Florida are the highest they have been since January.
“These vaccines are saving lives,” DeSantis said last week.
Scalise, the House Republican whip, was vaccinated last week and told the New Orleans Times-Picayune he had waited because he thought he had some immunity from an earlier Covid-19 infection. But the rise of the Delta variant appeared to sway him.
“When you talk to people who run hospitals, in New Orleans or other states, 90% of people in hospital with Delta variant have not been vaccinated,” he said. “That’s another signal the vaccine works.”