RELEASE – KHANNA ENCOURAGES CDC TO STRENTHEN COVID-19 GUIDELINES
Washington, DC – September 1, 2021 – Today, Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17), Congressional Progressive Caucus Deputy Whip and Member of the House Committee on Oversight, led a letter to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encouraging the agency to strengthen its national Covid-19 guidelines. As students reenter classrooms around the country, a surge in the Delta variant puts children of all ages at risk –- particularly younger children, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. The letter, signed by 17 other Members of Congress, asks the CDC to take immediate action to:
- Recommend all individuals 2 years and older, regardless of vaccine status, wear masks in indoor public spaces when in physical proximity to others outside their household, and in all high-density outdoor settings.
- Update Covid-19 guidance to fully recognize aerosol transmission.
- Require tracking and reporting of Covid-19 infections for essential workers.
- Track infections in people who are fully vaccinated, including mild and asymptomatic infections.
On July 27th, following a surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Delta variant, the CDC released new masking guidelines, recommending that individuals in counties with substantial and high rates of transmission wear masks indoors. While a step in the right direction, the CDC guidelines don't go far enough.
“Mask-wearing is a common-sense, science-based practice that helps keep all of us safe, especially children under 12, who are not yet eligible for vaccines. I’m calling on the CDC to recognize this and to immediately update its guidelines to recommend that all individuals ages 2 and up wear masks in public indoor spaces,” said Representative Khanna.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, registered nurses across the country have been calling on the CDC to issue strong science-based guidance to better protect our patients and frontline workers from exposure to Covid-19. We are grateful to Congressman Khanna and the signatories of this letter for encouraging the CDC to strengthen its Covid-19 guidelines in the wake of the delta variant surge across the country. This pandemic is far from over, and nurses across the country are on the frontlines of the massive surge in cases. We nurses know that to protect the lives of our patients, our colleagues, and all essential workers, we must use multiple layers of protection to combat this pandemic. To do so, the CDC must immediately improve their guidelines,” said Deborah Burger, RN, President, National Nurses United
As case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths have dramatically increased over the past several weeks, and as we wait for a timeline from the FDA to approve vaccines for children under 12, stronger guidelines are necessary to ensure public safety. Implementing stronger guidelines can save countless lives and expedite a recovery.
Cosigners of the letter are Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Judy Chu, Mark DeSaulnier, Adriano Espaillat, Jesús G. "Chuy" García, Raúl Grijalva, Sheila Jackson Lee, Pramila Jayapal, Mondaire Jones, Barbara Lee, James P. McGovern, Marie Newman, Mark Pocan, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Jan Schakowsky, Rashida Tlaib, and Juan Vargas.
Read the letter online here or below.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, Director
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30329
Dear Dr. Walensky,
Thank you for your leadership at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and for all you have done to keep Americans safe during this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. We appreciated the CDC’s July 27th update to public health guidelines, which recommended that individuals in counties with substantial and high rates of transmission wear masks indoors. However, due to the prevalence of the highly contagious Delta variant in the United States, low vaccination rates across the county, and indications that vaccine effectiveness may decrease over time, the CDC’s recent guidelines do not go far enough. To save lives and curb the most recent surges in infections, the CDC should strengthen its guidelines and take the following actions as quickly as possible:
- Recommend all individuals 2 years and older, regardless of vaccine status, wear masks in indoor public spaces when in physical proximity to others outside their household, and in all high-density outdoor settings. The CDC’s July 27th guidelines, which are based on county-wide transmission rates, further complicate our existing patchwork of national, state, and local policies, creating unnecessary confusion. They also place the burden of enforcement on health care workers and essential workers, who are more likely to be exposed to Covid-19 due to the nature of their employment. Finally, while Covid-19 vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death from the virus, no vaccine is 100 percent effective. A stronger, unequivocal recommendation for nationwide masking will help to protect medically vulnerable patients, children, and infants who cannot be vaccinated, and immunocompromised individuals for whom vaccines may be less effective.
- Update Covid-19 guidance to fully recognize aerosol transmission. Covid-19 guidance created by the Trump Administration, including dangerous crisis standards that allow for reuse of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE), is still in place, enabling weaker protocols at the state and local levels. The CDC should update these guidelines, prioritizing engineering controls, such as ventilation and air filtration, and respiratory protection, and revoking crisis standards for PPE.
- Require tracking and reporting of Covid-19 infections for essential workers. At present, there is still no streamlined, national system to track Covid-19 infections among essential workers. Timely and accurate data remains important to an effective pandemic response and protecting nurses and other health care workers. The data collected should be anonymized and personally identifiable information should be redacted when collected to protect the privacy of our frontline workers.
- Track infections in people who are fully vaccinated, including mild and asymptomatic infections. Careful study of breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated individuals is critical to determining vaccine effectiveness and duration of vaccine protection or whether emerging coronavirus variants are becoming more resistant to vaccines. Tracking all cases, not just localized cohort studies, and transparent reporting of breakthrough infections are necessary to fully understand the scope, significance, and impact of breakthrough infections.
As case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths have dramatically increased over the past several weeks, stronger guidelines are necessary to ensure public safety. The pandemic is not over, but implementing stronger guidelines would save countless lives and expedite a full recovery. Once again, we thank you for your continued leadership during such an incredibly challenging time, and we appreciate your full and fair consideration of this inquiry.
Member of Congress
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About the Office
Congressman Khanna represents the 17th District of California, which covers communities in Silicon Valley. Visit his website at khanna.house.gov. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @RepRoKhanna.