NIH director walks back mask-wearing recommendation for parents with unvaccinated children

There is no need to mask at home, the director said.

The National Institutes of Health director walked back his recommendations Tuesday that parents with unvaccinated children wear a mask around their homes, encouraging them to wear the protective gear in public settings indoors.

“Let me clarify the masking message that I garbled on this morning,” said director Francis Collins in a tweet Tuesday afternoon.

“Vaccinated parents who live in communities with high COVID transmission rates should mask when out in public indoor settings to minimize risks to their unvaccinated kids. No need to mask at home,” he elaborated.

ORIGINAL STORY (08/03/21 - 5 p.m. ET):

The director of the National Institutes of Health recommended Tuesday that parents of unvaccinated children wear masks around their homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s clear that this variant is capable of causing serious illness in children,” NIH director Dr. Francis Collins said in an interview on CNN. “You have heard the stories coming out of Louisiana pediatric ICUs, where there are kids as young as a few months old are sick.”

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While Collins acknowledged severe cases in young children are rare, the number of pediatric patients is increasing.

“Parents of unvaccinated kids should be thoughtful about this,” Dr. Collins continued. “And the recommendation is to wear masks [at home] as well. I know it’s uncomfortable. I know it seems weird. But it is the best way to protect your kids.”

The NIH official cited several international studies suggesting the Delta variant is more severe for specific age groups. Still, he admitted the data behind them is “not as solid … to be confident.”