Fox News reporter Peter Doocy grilled White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday over the Biden administration’s decision to lift some restrictions in the CDC guidelines that had been put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The exchange comes after Biden announced on Thursday that the administration was lifting mask requirements for people who are fully vaccinated.
Transcript and video of the exchange are featured below:
DOOCY: There are a lot of questions about the timing of the CDC’s announcement yesterday. So, did somebody at the Biden administration or in the Biden administration update this guidance for political reasons?
DOOCY: So what was the medical or scientific reason? What was the big breakthrough to do this yesterday?
PSAKI: Well, I know that Dr. Walensky did an extensive number of interviews yesterday to answer exactly that question.
But, as we’ve talked in here quite a bit about, the CDC — not just Dr. Walensky, but her entire team of health and medical experts — are constantly reviewing the data to ensure that they can provide accurate and up-to-date guidance to the American people.
So, based on three factors, as she talked about yesterday, vaccines work in the real world. We’ve seen a lot of studies done on that, including internally in the federal government. Vaccines stand up to the variants, which at various times has been a concern about the need to continue to masking — to mask even as you — after you’re vaccinated. And vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus. That’s how they came to the decision, and that’s what she conveyed yesterday when she announced the decision.
DOOCY: But just looking at the CDC’s website on the way up here, only 45.6 percent of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated as of yesterday. Only 58.9 percent of the adult population had — has at least one dose.
So, what happened to President Biden saying in March that he thought lifting mask mandates before every adult American goes and gets a shot is “Neanderthal thinking”?
PSAKI: Well, first, let me say that the president — our North Star has been listening to the guidance of our health and medical experts and teams, and that’s exactly what we’re doing in this case.
And just to reiterate: The CDC — the doctors and medical experts there — were the ones who determined what this guidance would be, based on their own data, and what the timeline would be. That was not a decision directed by, made by the White House. It was infor — the White House was informed of that decision, just to give people assurance of that.
DOOCY: So, does the president still think that these red-state governors who were a little bit ahead of the federal government in lifting mask mandates had “Neanderthal thinking”?
PSAKI: Well, again, I would say that even with this guidance that’s out there, the guidance is not telling states and localities exactly how they should implement. As you know, there are some localities and gover — and states in the country that have higher rates of vaccination than others, some communities that have higher rates of vaccinations than others. And we even know, as this is being implemented, that different localities, businesses will implement it in the way that they feel will help ensure their community is safe.
But I know I am reassured by listening to the health — the guidance of health and medical experts, not political decision-making. So, that’s the point we’re at now.
DOOCY: And my last one, Andy Slavitt said this morning that the White House found out the mask guidance was going to change at 9:00 p.m. the night before. Were you guys surprised that, in the nine o’clock hour, at 9:25, the CDC Director was on CNN saying that the science wasn’t there yet?
PSAKI: I didn’t watch that interview. I can just tell you that a small number of — that they were — we were informed the night before that the guidance — that they’d made a decision about the guidance. They planned to announce it the next day. And even here, only a small number of people knew that that announcement was going to be made. Hence, if you were here yesterday, you saw, kind of, shock of people taking off their masks around the building.
But, you know, it may have been at the point where they were not ready to make the announcement yet, but I’d point you to the CDC on their specific rollout plan.
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