President Joe Biden snapped back at a reporter on Friday who appeared to question the need for his mask after since he has been vaccinated for COVID-19.
The reporter’s question came amid criticism of the administration for continuing to send competing messages regarding the efficacy of vaccines and the continued need for coronavirus mitigation measures even after Americans are vaccinated.
Specifically, the reporter asked the president why he continues “to wear a mask so often when you’re vaccinated and you’re around other people who are vaccinated.”
“Because I’m worried about you,” Biden snapped back without a hint of sarcasm. But after an uncomfortable pause, the president added, “No, that’s a joke. It’s a joke.”
“Why am I wearing the mask? Because, when we’re inside, it’s still good policy to wear the mask. That’s why,” Biden continued. “When I’m outside — and the problem is, lots of times, I walk away from this podium, you notice, I forget to put my mask back on because I’m used to not wearing it outside.”
Biden was speaking to reporters at the time in the “cavernous East Room,” as noted by the New York Post, which added that “most if not all” of the president’s staffers are vaccinated for the virus as well as all White House correspondents. Also, reporters have to test negative every morning before being allowed on White House grounds.
As for Biden, he continues to mask up in venues where even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said it is no longer necessary to do so, such as outdoors and when intermingling indoors with others who have been vaccinated.
He defended that in an interview with NBC News that aired Friday, claiming he’s being sensible because he could be approached at some point by someone who is infected.
“The likelihood of my being able to be outside and people not come up to me is not very, very high,” Biden said.
Vice President Kamala Harris has sent similar mixed messaging; she, too, is fully vaccinated but has continued to wear a mask in settings where it’s simply not required.
For instance, she was widely mocked online in April for post a photo of her, by herself, staring out of the window of Air Force Two while wearing a mask. And more recently, she was ratioed online after a video of her kissing husband Doug Emhoff while both were masked went viral.
According to published information, the two-dose vaccines that Moderna and Pfizer developed were roughly 95 percent effective in clinical trials. Also, a one-dose vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is about 66 percent effective in preventing moderate-to-severe COVID illness, and around 85 percent effective in preventing the spread of severe disease.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the administration is also taking heat over the latest job creation figures as the economy continues to reopen as the pandemic fades.
On Friday, the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy created just 266,000 jobs in April, far fewer than the 1 million projected by several leading economists, while the overall unemployment rate actually ticked up a tenth to 6.1 percent.
The less-than-stellar figures led to renewed criticism from Republicans and business trade groups that additional unemployment benefits signed into law as part of a recent $1.9 trillion COVID relief measure are driving Americans out of the workforce because they are earning more by staying home.
But Biden denied that on Friday when asked by a reporter if the benefits are contributing to a labor shortage even as millions of jobs go unfilled.
“No, nothing measurable,” he said in response to a question about the additional weekly federal enhanced unemployment benefit of $300 on top of what states are paying — a benefit that lasts through Sept. 6.
“I know some employers are having trouble filling jobs but what this report shows is that there is a much bigger problem…it’s that our economy still has 8 million fewer jobs than when this pandemic started. The data shows that more workers are looking for jobs and many can’t find them,” Biden claimed.