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On Tuesday, the CDC released a statement on its website with updated COVID-19 guidance, including masking recommendations.
“To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission,” the CDC said. “Wearing a mask is most important if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. If this applies to you or your household, you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission in your area.” [Emphasis added]
President Biden also weighed in on the guidance in a statement released by the White House:
Today’s announcement by the CDC—that new research and concerns about the Delta variant leads CDC to recommend a return to masking in parts of the country—is another step on our journey to defeating this virus. I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it; I certainly will when I travel to these areas. Today, the CDC also reaffirmed that we can safely reopen schools this fall—full-time. Masking students is inconvenient, I know, but will allow them to learn and be with their classmates with the best available protection. Most importantly, today’s announcement also makes clear that the most important protection we have against the Delta variant is to get vaccinated. Although most U.S. adults are vaccinated, too many are not. While we have seen an increase in vaccinations in recent days, we still need to do better. [Emphasis added]
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office was first out of the box to criticize the new recommendations. “It isn’t based in science,” press secretary Christina Pushaw told Fox News. “There is no indication that areas with mask mandates have performed any better than areas without mask mandates. In fact, this policy could actually backfire.”
Pushaw tweeted that parents should be the ones making decisions about their children’s health and safety.
She pointed out that “not everyone can get vaccinated,” including some being treated with chemotherapy, and suggested that people “have some empathy and stop berating/mocking people for being hospitalized or dying from COVID.” She was referring to recent articles breathlessly reporting on a vaccine-hesitant man who died of COVID-19 complications.
On Monday DeSantis told attendees at a roundtable, “I think our fear is that seeing some of those rumblings, that there be an attempt from the federal level or even some of these organizations to try to push for mandatory masking of school children. And so our view is that this should absolutely not be imposed. It should not be mandated.”
Biden sniped at a reporter who asked whether the federal government will require all employees to be vaccinated. “That’s under consideration right now, but if you’re not vaccinated you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.”
The president said that on Thursday he will lay out the “next steps” to push more Americans to get vaccinated. “By following the science, and by doing our part by getting vaccinated, America can beat COVID,” Biden said. “In the meantime, more vaccinations and mask-wearing in the areas most impacted by the Delta variant will enable us to avoid the kind of lockdowns, shutdowns, school closures, and disruptions we faced in 2020. Unlike 2020, we have both the scientific knowledge and the tools to prevent the spread of this disease. We are not going back to that.”