CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday quizzed Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, on President Biden’s face mask-wearing habits, asking whether he is perhaps “overly cautious” and sending the wrong message.
“Is it really necessary for a fully vaccinated person to wear a mask at a limited indoor gathering if everyone there is vaccinated?” Tapper asked Zients Sunday morning on “State of the Union.”
Zients noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance that a vaccinated person need not wear a face mask in small groups of family and friends who are also vaccinated.
“So why does President Biden, in a room full of vaccinated journalists, with everybody in that room vaccinated, why does he need to wear a mask?” Tapper followed up.
“The president is going to continue to follow the CDC guidance,” Zients responded. “You know, it’s just a matter of a few weeks ago when all states made vaccines eligible for all Americans, so there still are Americans who want to get vaccinated, who may just have their first shot and are waiting for their second shot, or who haven’t had an opportunity yet to get their first shot, and we want those folks to get vaccinated.”
Tapper continued to press, however, and asked whether Biden is sending an incorrect message by wearing a mask so frequently.
“I think one of the reasons why journalists are annoyingly harping on this, and some health experts are, is because there is a light at 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,” Tapper said. “You and I are both vaccinated, and you and I are in a room together talking, and I have no fear that I’m going to get the virus from you, and I assume vice versa. I think the concern is that by being overly cautious, the signal is going out to the public that there isn’t necessarily light at end of the tunnel.”
Tapper asked another person close to Biden, senior adviser Anita Dunn, about the mask issue earlier this month, remarking, “I think over-caution also has a price and that masks somehow become a performative act rather than a life-saving act when it’s really needed, and also, it’s really underselling the power of the vaccine.”
Dunn said that that the White House does “take some extra precautions” for Biden because he is the president, but she added that people “should take advantage of getting the vaccine, getting fully vaccinated, and taking that mask off.”
Biden himself was asked by a reporter on Friday about his preference to wear a face mask even around other vaccinated people.
“Because when we’re inside it’s still good policy to wear the mask,” Biden responded.
Biden announced a goal last week of having 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4. The pace of daily vaccinations has dropped since last month. In April, about 3.3 million Americans were receiving daily vaccinations. This month, only 2.29 million Americans are receiving shots per day.
“Now we’re going to have to bring the vaccine to people who are less eager,” the president said on Tuesday.
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