Fauci expects CDC to revise mask guidelines, says COVID-19 transmission risk outdoors is ‘really low’

Women wearing masks take photos on their iphones on the first day of spring in Times Square on March 20, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday he expects the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise its guidelines after acknowledging that the risk of COVID-19 transmission in an outdoor setting is "really low."

Fauci said the COVID-19 transmission risk for people engaging in outdoor activities is "minuscule," especially for vaccinated individuals.

"What I believe you’re going to be hearing, what the country is going to be hearing soon, is updated guidelines from the CDC," Fauci told ABC’s "This Week." "The CDC is a science-based organization. They don’t want to make any guidelines unless they look at the data and the data backs it up."

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"But when you look around at the common sense situation, the risk is really low, especially if you’re vaccinated," he said.  

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky previously confirmed the agency is looking to ease the outdoor mask-wearing policy.

"This is a question that we’re looking at," she said on the "Today" show last week when asked whether people still need to mask up outside when they’re not close to others.

"And so now we are really trying to scale up vaccination, we have this complex message that we still have hot spots in this country … We will be looking at the outdoor masking question, but it’s also in the context of the fact that we still have people who are dying of COVID," she continued.

According to the CDC, more than 94 million Americans are fully vaccinated, representing 28.5% of the total U.S. population. 

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Last week, U.S. health officials lifted an 11-day pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccinations following a recommendation by an expert panel. Advisers to the CDC said the benefits of the single-dose COVID-19 shot outweigh the rare risk of a blood clot.

Still, vaccine hesitancy remains a problem. 

Across the country, pharmacists and public health officials are seeing the demand wane and supplies build up. 

Louisiana has stopped asking the federal government for its full allotment of COVID-19 vaccine. About three-quarters of Kansas counties have turned down new shipments of the vaccine at least once over the past month. In Mississippi, officials asked the federal government to ship vials in smaller packages so they don’t go to waste, and about half of Iowa’s counties have stopped asking for new doses from the state.

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To combat the hesitancy, Louisiana continues to increase its outreach work with community organizations and faith-based leaders, set up a hotline to help people schedule appointments and work to find free transportation to a vaccination center. The health department is sending out more than 100,000 mailers on Monday to encourage people to get vaccinated, and robocalls from regional medical directors are going out to landline phones around the state.

Several states have already dropped their mask policy in recent months including Iowa, Texas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Texas.

Health officials have warned that some states may be lifting restrictions too soon.

Walensky urgently warned state officials last month not to let down their guard, saying she is "really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures that we have recommended."

FOX News, The Associated Press and Jordan Smith contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.