A top White House adviser explained why President Joe Biden continues to wear a face mask despite being fully vaccinated. During a television appearance, senior advisor Anita Dunn said Biden did so out of habit. The president, who completed his COVID-19 vaccination schedule in January, announced that fully vaccinated Americans are no longer required to wear masks outdoors.
Dunn said in her May 2 television interview: “I think the president takes … [health] guidelines very seriously. And he’s always taken his role as sending a signal to follow the science very seriously.” The advisor noted that she herself also wore face masks outdoors despite being fully vaccinated herself. “I myself found that I was still wearing my mask outdoors … because it has become such a matter of habit,” Dunn remarked.
The adviser added that some extra precautions are taken with Biden due to his position. Nevertheless, she exhorted Americans to abide by CDC guidelines and to get fully vaccinated.
According to recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fully vaccinated people need not wear face masks when outdoors. They are also permitted to exercise, attend small gatherings or have a meal with both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals – as long as they are in outside settings.
The rule came amid mounting evidence that outdoor COVID-19 transmission only accounted for less than 10 percent of cases, which the public health agency acknowledged. However, the same CDC guidance also recommended that vaccinated people still mask up in crowded places. The close proximity of people in these situations facilitate a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during an April 27 COVID-19 team briefing: “If you are fully vaccinated, things are much safer for you.” She continued that “there are many situations in which Americans do not need to wear masks if they are fully vaccinated, particularly outdoors.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the previous week that Biden will follow the new CDC guidelines – albeit it will “take him some time” to adjust. “He’ll be following public health guidelines … [but it] will take some time [for the president] to adjust and adapt for all of us,” she remarked during a White House press briefing. (Related: Biden says Americans will have to wear face masks until 2022.)
The president had been wearing a face mask outdoors in multiple instances, including an April 27 appearance before reporters to talk about the new CDC guidelines. “Starting today, if you’re fully vaccinated and you’re outdoors and not in a big crowd, you no longer need to wear a mask,” Biden said in his speech.
He also emphasized the importance of vaccinations, saying that getting the COVID-19 shot meant a return to normal life. “Vaccines are about saving your life, but also the lives of the people around you. [They are] also about helping to get us back … to living our normal lives,” he said.
Biden also replied to a question regarding what message he was sending by wearing a mask despite being alone and in an outdoor setting. “By watching me take it off and not put it back on until I get inside,” he said. The president left the podium after making his remarks and stood next to the driveway outside the White House with his mask in hand. He defended his continued masking as “a bid to set a good example.” (Related: Biden spins his proposed nationwide mask mandate, now calling it “guidance.”)
Because of this, critics and public health experts have questioned the need for Biden to continue masking up in outdoor settings. Some opponents remarked that Biden wearing a mask in obviously safe environments is pointless. Meanwhile, others have slammed his behavior as potentially undermining faith in Wuhan coronavirus vaccines.
Mediaite reported on April 29 that medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen slammed Biden’s continued mask-wearing as a “missed opportunity to reduce vaccine hesitancy.” The former health commissioner for Baltimore cited the president’s April 28 speech before a joint session of Congress. Lawmakers followed social distancing by seating far apart from each other and wore masks. Even Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had face coverings on.
“The problem wasn’t the content of his speech – it was the setting,” Wen wrote in an April 29 op-ed. She warned in the same article: “Already, a very damaging narrative is taking hold. If the vaccines are so effective, then why so many precautions for the fully vaccinated? What’s the point of getting inoculated if not much changes?”
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