Biden Can't Explain Why He's Still Wearing a Mask
The administration is modeling behavior that is even more risk-averse than what the CDC recommends.
On Sunday, CNN's Jake Tapper quizzed White House adviser Jeffrey Zients about President Joe Biden's continued insistence on wearing a mask—even when entering a room where everyone is fully vaccinated.
"The president is going to continue to follow the CDC guidance," said Zients. "We're going to look to the CDC. The president from day one has said we're going to rely on science and facts and that's what we'll do."
This was only slightly more coherent than the answer given by Biden himself, who told a reporter on Friday that he was continuing to mask up "because when we're inside it's still good policy to wear the mask."
It is in fact not necessary for the fully vaccinated to wear masks around other fully vaccinated people. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged that there are "many situations" where the fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks: outdoors, and even inside when everyone is vaccinated, for instance. This is important, since the CDC has generally taken a wildly cautious approach with its recommendations (see: summer camp guidance). But in many ways, Biden and Zients are sticking to an approach that is even more risk-averse than what the CDC has said.
Tapper was rightly critical of this.
"I think one of the reasons why journalists are annoyingly harping on this is…because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and President Biden being able to take off his mask in a room full of journalists and White House staffers, all of whom are fully vaccinated, is a demonstration that the vaccines work," he said to Zients. "I think the concern is that by being overly cautious, the signal is going out to the public that there isn't necessarily a light at the end of the tunnel."
Zients conceded that many people are sick of following precautions, but said Americans could soon look forward to the day where the CDC restores "more and more privileges."
"I think everyone is tired and wearing a mask can be a pain, but we're getting there, and the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter and brighter," said Zients. "Let's keep up our guard, let's follow the CDC guidance, and the CDC guidance across time will allow vaccinated people more and more privileges to take off that mask."
W.H Covid Coordinator Jeffrey Zients: "CDC guidance across time will allow vaccinated people more and more privileges to take off that mask" pic.twitter.com/gtGBLc3zx6
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) May 9, 2021
It's telling—and alarming—that the administration has essentially conceded that the CDC is in complete control of these decisions: Various COVID-19 mitigation policies will never be relaxed until White House COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky give the OK. This means that the same health bureaucrats who want summer camps to operate like prisons, took advice from teachers union boss Randi Weingarten on delaying school reopenings, and decided to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine—which likely contributed to vaccine hesitancy and certainly caused deaths—are running the show. Just this weekend, Fauci suggested a return-to-normal date of Mother's Day 2022.
Biden has given no indication that he will press them to hurry it up, even though evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people can resume essentially all normal activity with minimal risk of getting sick or spreading COVID-19 to others. On the contrary, he seems inclined to continue setting an example that good, progressive people keep wearing masks regardless of their vaccination status.