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ST. LOUIS — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention visited St. Louis on Thursday, and she said that the agency is prepared for another COVID variant or pandemic.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she and the agency may have been too optimistic about being further along in the fight against the pandemic with the arrival of COVID vaccines.

Walensky toured the Care STL Health Center, a federally-qualified center that turns no one away. She was escorted by St. Louis City Health Director Dr. Hlatfshwayo Daivs.

They visited several departments including triage, the pharmacy, women’s health, and pediatrics. This clinic has been instrumental in offering COVID testing and vaccines in north St. Louis.

Walensky said the vaccines gave everyone hope.

“We didn’t talk about the word waning. We didn’t talk about the word new variant, and we have been given some curveballs. So, we will now be a bit more cautious about our optimism but also recognize these vaccines provide extraordinary protection,” said Walensky.

The mask mandate in St. Louis City will expire at midnight Sunday, but the city health director strongly encourages mask-wearing in indoor settings.

“I strongly recommend people continue to mask indoors, especially when at high-risk — meaning for our elderly population, people in congregate living settings, and those who are immunocompromised,” said Davis.

When I asked how she would convince the millions of Americans who are against the vaccine. Walensky said we need to listen to them and continue to have several conversations with that group.