A third senior administration official expected that the guidelines would be released “soon.” A fourth said major guidelines on Covid-19 often go through “rigorous deliberations” in the last few days before their release.
“CDC’s guidance will not be posted tomorrow because we have not finalized it here at CDC. Once it is final, we will publish and disseminate it,” said Jason McDonald, a spokesperson for the agency.
There is no evidence to suggest that the Biden White House is trying to suppress the CDC guidelines or override the judgement of CDC scientists.
But officials inside the nation’s health agencies are on edge after years of repeated political interference from the Trump administration, which notoriously cut the CDC out of critical policy conversations on Covid-19. And Trump appointees at HHS routinely interfered in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, as first revealed by POLITICO.
The CDC’s guidelines for vaccinated people, as described to POLITICO earlier this week, were supposed to say that those who had received a full course of vaccine could socialize with other vaccinated people in small groups in the home without masks. But the guidelines said that vaccinated individuals should continue to adhere to mask and social distancing guidance in public. The guidelines were also set to include various scenarios for immunized people to consider, including travel.
As inoculations ramp up, Americans are eager to begin to return back to normal. And while CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has repeatedly said the country needs to continue to remain vigilant, the draft advice was going to offer Americans a glimmer of hope — that the U.S. was headed in the right direction.
The guidelines were originally conceived when the U.S. had just two vaccines available, from Moderna and Pfizer, one of the senior administration officials said. The FDA recently authorized use of a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, and the administration is in the midst of sending millions of doses to states across the country. But even though the Moderna and Pfizer shots are given as two doses, and J&J’s as one, it takes about 14 days after the final dose of each for immunity to develop.
CDC’s guidance was set to come out at a time when the White House and Biden’s Covid-19 task force is trying to push back against governors in Texas and Mississippi who have rolled back mask mandates and are fully reopening their economies. Since those announcements Tuesday, several White House officials, including the president himself, have denounced the decision. During a press gaggle Wednesday Biden said the move to relax public health measures reflected “Neanderthal thinking.”
Adam Cancryn contributed to this report.