Capito pushes CDC Director for clarity on Mask Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, participated in a hearing on the budget blueprint for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for FY2022. During the hearing, Senator Capito pushed CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky for a clarified message on mask policy, provided advice based on West Virginia vaccine distribution, and urged for additional support to stop the spread of infectious disease related to drug addiction and abuse in West Virginia.  

ON HIV CASES IN WEST VIRGINIA: “West Virginia received a grant within the hepatitis surveillance targeted funds to help us address certain areas, ‘hot spots’ I guess you could call them. But, we are not an ‘ending HIV focus jurisdiction’ nor are any of our counties. In your testimony, you state that increased funding in the budget is for the four key strategies in the focus areas, but not to increase the amount of focus areas. My question is, I think we need to be a focus area because we have some of the highest incidents, how do you expand that footprint?”

ON LESSONS LEARNED FROM WEST VIRGINIA’S VACCINE DISTRIBUTION: “I would make note—during the initial distribution of the vaccine—West Virginia did an incredible job working with our public health infrastructure. One of the lessons that we learned, and I hope this becomes part of a manual to address future issues, is that public health infrastructure cannot do this by themselves. Not to the breadth of what we saw. What happened; we had volunteers, county and city government, we had our National Guard. So I would encourage you, while increasing our public health infrastructure is absolutely essential, I think growing those partnerships could be even more essential. There is a roadmap there for success. 

ON NEED FOR CLARITY ON MASK MANDATE, VACCINATIONS: “Senator Blunt and I were in the Oval Office when the announcement was made with the president that we were going to lift the mask mandate. I cannot tell you how joyful we all were as we ripped our masks off and had a great meeting after that.  But, there is confusion still. If we’re going to get more people vaccinated, which is the ultimate goal all the way down through the age levels, we can’t have this confusion. ‘Should I get my child vaccinated’?  How old could my child be to get vaccinated’? Does my child need to wear a mask at school’? Who is the ultimate decider here? Is that the CDC? Is that the president? The governor? The NIH? There is too much coming at young families, in particular, to be able to think that their child is safe and that they’re doing the right things for them to go to school. Also, to get rid of the vaccine hesitation. I think that is a large part of the people who are left to be vaccinated.”  

ON YOUTH VACCINATION POLICY: “What do you say to the under 12 population, elementary school parents of those children who have low vaccination rates and low incident of infection? All of the studies show that the younger generation is not as affected as older and more senior. What do you tell them? Listen to your governor? Listen to you school board?”