White House staff is “prepared” to begin wearing masks again “if required” by new guidance expected to be issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday told reporters that the CDC will outline its updated mask guidance Tuesday afternoon amid the COVID-19 threat as the delta variant becomes more prominent in the U.S.
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The new guidance is expected to recommend 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.
“The reality is we’re dealing with a much different strain of this virus than we were even earlier in the spring, back in May, when the masking guidance was provided by the CDC at that time,” Psaki said, referring to earlier CDC guidance in May which said vaccinated individuals no longer were required to wear face coverings.
“That is their job. Their job is to look at evolving information, evolving data and evolving historic pandemic and provide guidance to the American public,” Psaki said of the CDC.
In May, the CDC announced that vaccinated individuals were not required to wear masks indoors or outdoors, or physically distance, while maintaining that unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks and socially distance.
At the time, the CDC still recommended that fully vaccinated individuals wear masks while in crowded indoor settings, such as riding public transportation and in hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters. The CDC told Fox News last week it had “no plans” to update its mask use recommendations.
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The expected guidance comes as the Biden administration ramps up its warnings about the delta variant of COVID-19, as the strain becomes more prominent in the United States.
As for masks at the White House, Psaki said staff is prepared to follow CDC guidelines.
“First, we will, of course, be abiding by every aspect of the CDC guidelines on masking that they provide this afternoon.” Psaki said. “And that does mean, as you conveyed, that we will be looking at the rates in different areas where the president may visit and also the rates as they if they move in Washington, D.C. and we will apply guidance accordingly.”
She added: “That means we will be prepared to wear masks again if required. If the guidance is leading to that, as would the president.”
Meanwhile, the Justice Department concluded that federal law does not prohibit public agencies and private businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccines that are under emergency use authorization.
The VA became the first agency in the federal government to announce that it will require patient-facing employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Last week, during a White House press briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki suggested that every White House official had been offered a COVID-19 vaccine, but clarified Friday that the White House was not requiring officials to be vaccinated.
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“No, we have not mandated it,” Psaki responded, after being asked whether the administration was mandating White House staff receive a coronavirus vaccine.
Psaki did not provide a specific number of how many White House officials have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, but said that they are able to track the number of individuals on the president’s staff because “they are vaccinated here in the White House medical unit.”