Incoming CDC chief: Masks will be necessary for the ‘better part’ of 2021

She explained her prediction in a video produced last month before being named chief

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the announcement on Tuesday.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the incoming Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief, recently shared her purview on what 2021 will look like as vaccinations continue and the efforts to combat COVID-19 remain necessary.

President-elect Joe Biden appointed Walensky as CDC director on Dec. 7, but she’s made few public comments since her appointment was announced. Weeks before the appointment, she shared some candid perspectives on what she has told her family and others about fighting the virus. In a November information video, Walensky, who is chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained her medical opinion on vaccination and wearing masks.

“Over time we will be able to maybe one day not be in our masks anymore, but I have told my family I anticipate they’ll be wearing a mask for the better part of ’21,” Walensky said in the video, which was produced by Massachusetts General Hospital.

She also shared her views about who should be considered to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations first. Though many have health care workers on the list, Walensky, who is chief at one of the top research hospitals in America, said there are also other groups to consider “vulnerable” to virus exposure.

“I take vulnerable in two different ways,” she said. “Those who are more likely to get infected by virtue of the fact they live in high-risk communities, and the second is those who are at high risk for severe disease.”

Dr. William Schaffner, a longtime adviser to the CDC on vaccines, told CNN that Walensky, who is a practicing infectious disease specialist, is poised to encourage health care professionals to take the shot.

“What Rochelle will have is instant credibility with the practicing community. They will know that she knows what it’s like to be at the bedside of a very sick patient,” he said.

“She’s clear, articulate and she can deliver messages with a smile. You can just look at her and just by her presence know that she is both competent and dedicated,” said Schaffner, a liaison representative on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.