“I’m going to pause here, I’m going to lose the script and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” she mentioned, her eyes glistening with tears. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now I’m scared.”

Her impassioned speech startled many individuals, maybe none greater than her husband. “She’s not a crier — if anything, I get choked up much more easily than she does,” he mentioned. Her openness signaled her “genuine anguish” about the state of the pandemic, he added. “She deeply felt the weight of a half a million dead.”

The day of her pressing plea, she appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the place she mentioned vaccinated folks “do not carry the virus” — a very optimistic assertion that the C.D.C. needed to stroll again. Later that week, new steerage from the company mentioned that vaccinated folks may safely journey, however Dr. Walensky added that the company didn’t really need them to journey in any respect, a stance that left some Americans perplexed.

The most up-to-date occasion, when Dr. Walensky introduced that vaccinated folks may go mask-free indoors, was supported by the newest analysis, scientists mentioned. But many felt the company had rushed the determination to finish masks use with out contemplating elements of the nation the place infections have been nonetheless high, and with out greedy the distrust and tradition clashes the new recommendation would engender.

“C.D.C. got the medical and epidemiological science right, but what they did not get right was the behavioral science, the communications and working collaboratively with other stakeholders,” Dr. Gounder mentioned. “That was a big oversight.”

Data since the announcement appear to have proved Dr. Walensky appropriate: Infections are nonetheless declining, at the same time as a lot of the nation reopens at a vigorous tempo. And as promised, the company has set about issuing extra sensible masking steerage relating to settings like summer time camps (largely no) and public transportation (sure).

Dr. Walensky and the C.D.C. declined to touch upon how the masks suggestions have been dealt with. But Dr. Fauci mentioned that he believed some small missteps have been inevitable, and that Dr. Walensky was a fast research.

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