White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki insisted on Friday that the new federal mask guidelines came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an exchange with the Fox News correspondent at the White House , Peter Doocy, at a briefing.
Psaki said the guidelines that vaccinated people are not required to wear masks indoors or outdoors, or at a physical distance, have been formulated by the CDC. “Not by us, not by the president,” Psaki said, adding that the White House was working to implement the new directions “across government.”
“Our North Star has listened to the advice of our medical and health experts and teams and that is exactly what we are doing in this case,” Psaki said.
When Doocy asked how the administration plans to implement the new guidelines, with a large majority of Americans still awaiting their coronavirus shots, Psaki said that would be up to states and businesses to decide. She did not specifically respond to Doocy’s question about whether President Biden still believed certain states were showing “Neanderthal thinking” to relax the rules on masks, as Biden had suggested in March.
“The guidelines don’t tell states and localities exactly how to implement,” Psaki replied, noting that some states and communities were ahead of others in terms of immunizing large swathes of their populations, and that it would be up to those communities and businesses. how best to implement the new directions.
FULLY VACCINATED PEOPLE CAN AVOID MASKS INSIDE, PHYSICAL DISTANCE: CDC
The CDC released the new mask guidelines on Thursday. CDC director Rochelle Walensky, however, said fully vaccinated people were still advised to wear masks in crowded indoor environments, such as on public transport and in hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.
Walensky added that immunocompromised people should see a doctor before giving up masks, however, warning that if COVID-19 cases in the country rise again, mask guidelines could change.
“This virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse, there’s always a chance we need to make a change to these recommendations,” Walensky said Thursday.
When asked if public criticism had prompted the CDC to update the recommendations, Walensky said the agency was following the science. “I want to be clear that we have followed the science here,” Walensky said Thursday. “While it might make some people want to get vaccinated, that’s not the point, our focus here is as a public health agency to follow the science and follow where we are with regard to the science. and what is safe. individuals to do. ”
Biden, speaking alongside Vice President Kamala Harris in the rose garden on Thursday, touted the CDC’s advice on wearing masks as a “big milestone.”
BIDEN CALLS ALLOWING FULLY VACCINATED PEOPLE TO GO WITHOUT A MASK INSIDE A “ BIG STEP ”
“If you have been fully vaccinated you no longer need to wear a mask. Let me repeat, if you are fully vaccinated you no longer need to wear a mask,” Biden said. “I think it’s a big milestone, a great day. It was made possible by the tremendous success we’ve had in vaccinating so many Americans, so quickly.”
But the president urged Americans who have not yet been vaccinated to do so.
“Get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do,” the president said. “As great as this announcement is today, we don’t want to let go. We all know how tough this virus has been… The safest thing for the country is for everyone to get vaccinated.”
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The president’s comments follow an expanded use authorization from the FDA to allow Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be given to children as young as 12, with the CDC following suit on Wednesday.
Biden also reiterated his goal of having 70% of America’s adult population receive at least one COVID-19 vaccine by July 4.
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Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have questioned the administration’s timing on the new mask guidelines.
“Why today? Science hasn’t changed,” Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., tweeted.
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“While the new mask guidelines are encouraging, the CDC and my colleagues on the radical far left have chosen to do so only to distract attention from the consequences of the catastrophic political decisions that have been heard around the world,” said Representative Andy Biggs, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said Thursday. “Inflation is rising, the Middle East is in ruins, the working class cannot fill its gas tanks, our border is crossed and the leadership of the Biden administration is nowhere to be found.”
Kayla Rivas of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.