White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tried to explain the Biden administration’s changing position on mask mandates on Tuesday by telling reporters on Tuesday that there was no “playbook” for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
She had the following exchange with Peter Doocy of Fox News, who asked about President Joe Biden’s guarantees in May that people who had been vaccinated would not have to wear masks anymore (via White House, emphasis added):
Q And then, on the CDC guidance, why did the President say, “If you’ve 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” if it was possible that that was going to turn out not to be true?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Peter, I think we’re all dealing with an evolving virus where there’s no playbook and no historic precedent. And what the American people should feel confident in is that we are going to continue to be guided by science, look at public health data in order to provide new guidance, if it’s needed, to save lives, to protect the American people.
When he made those comments back in May, we were dealing with a very different strain of the virus than we were — than we are today. And Delta is more transmissible. It’s spreading much more quickly. It was nearly non-existent in the United States back in May.
The White House was pressed Tuesday on why vaccinated people should return to wearing masks in certain situations since the COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing serious disease.
Press secretary Jen Psaki responded to a question from Fox News’ Peter Doocy by saying that masks are an “extra step” that provides further protection against COVID-19, while maintaining that vaccines against COVID-19 “work.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to announce Tuesday that some vaccinated individuals resume wearing masks in certain situations to protect against COVID-19, reversing its earlier guidance that only unvaccinated individuals should wear face coverings.
Congressional Republicans accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of choosing “politics, not science” after officials recommended Tuesday that fully vaccinated individuals wear personal protective masks in certain indoor situations.
COVID-19 may be “just a few mutations” away from being able to evade vaccines, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned Tuesday.
Walensky said the current vaccines are effective against severe cases of the coronavirus, including those caused by its known variants, but its continuing spread could allow the disease to mutate beyond the immunizations’ protection.
“The largest concern that I think we in public health and sciences are worried about is that virus and potential mutations … [have] the potential to evade our vaccine in terms of how it protects us from severe disease and death,” Walensky said at a press briefing.
VP Harris after the CDC said even vaccinated people should wear masks in public indoor settings:
“Nobody likes wearing a mask. Get vaccinated.” pic.twitter.com/wv6Ju4rwKc
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) July 27, 2021