Biden admin may be considering universal mask mandate, even for vaccinated

The Biden administration is entertaining a push to renew a universal mask mandate even for vaccinated Americans amid rising COVID-19 variant cases, reports said on Friday.

Discussions are reportedly taking place inside the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about asking all Americans to don a mask again, according to  The Washington Post.

The paper said the White House talks involved even minor actions such as changing messaging from senior officials instead of updating CDC guidance officials.

The agency changed its recommendation in May to say that Americans who have been vaccinated no longer need to don a mask while indoors.

There are some people who have been pushing for Americans to don masks again for a number of weeks as the Delta variant of COVID-19 began spreading around the country. However, now that White House officials are actually discussing the issue, calls to have Americans mask up again have gained in frequency and tenor, Fox News reported, especially among those on the left, with a few officials seeking a mandate.

Biden administration officials on Thursday did not deny that a change in recommendations or even a mandate could be just over the horizon but added that no guidance changes have been made yet.

“The head of the CDC, our public health arm, just spoke to this earlier this morning and made clear that there had not been a decision to change our mask guidance,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“We are guided by science and we’re guided by our public health experts and any decision would come from the CDC… There has been no decision to change our mask guidelines,” she added.

At the same time, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted that people who have been vaccinated have high protection from the disease, adding that people who have not gotten the jab should put on a mask.

She did not single out Americans who have had the virus and have recovered nor did she say whether her agency was planning to update its current mask guidelines to ask people who have gotten the vaccine to wear one indoors.

“Overall the CDC recommendations haven’t changed,” she said.

A CDC spokeswoman echoed Walensky’s statement in response to a Fox News query.

“People may want to wear masks and maintain physical distance if they are in an area with high case rates and lower vaccinations and/or where Delta variant cases are rising,” spokesperson Jasmine Reed told the network.

President Joe Biden said Thursday his health advisory panel was examining the issue.

“We follow the science,” Biden told reporters. “What’s happening now is all the major scientific operations in this country and the 25-person group we put together are looking at all the possibilities of what’s happening now.”

But any new mask recommendations or mandates are not likely to be well-received universally around the country. In fact, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has already said he won’t be re-implementing any mask requirements, especially for school-aged children.

“There’s been talk about potentially people advocating at the federal level, imposing compulsory masks on kids. We’re not doing that in Florida, okay? We need our kids to breathe. We need our kids to be able to be kids,” he said at Indian River State College on Thursday.

He went on to push back against the American Academy of Pediatrics, which last week broke from the CDC’s mask guidance and recommended that school-aged children be forced to wear masks when they return to in-person classes this fall.

“There’s not very much science behind” such recommendations, DeSantis said.

“There’s some schools [that] didn’t do masks, others did,’’ he said. “The outcomes were not meaningfully different.”

He added that he will leave masking decisions up to parents.

Jon Dougherty

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