President Joe Biden made a similar case in his speech from the White House on Thursday as he promoted the new CDC guidance. Some Americans may “just feel more comfortable continuing to wear a mask” even after getting their vaccinations, he said.
“They may feel that way. So if you’re someone with a mask — you see them, please treat them with kindness and respect,” Biden said. “We’ve had too much conflict, too much bitterness, too much anger, too much polarization of this issue about wearing masks. Let’s put it to rest.”
Walensky also suggested on Thursday that fully vaccinated parents and teachers “may want to continue wearing masks to model behavior” for children who are not yet vaccinated or currently unable to get the vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to be given to kids 12 to 15 years old, and a CDC panel on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed the expansion of the shot.
But Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s chief medical adviser, assessed on Friday that it was unlikely children younger than 12 would be able to get the vaccine before the start of the school year in the fall, when administration officials are pushing to resume five-day-a-week, in-person classes.
“I believe by the end of this calendar year, and probably sooner, that kids of virtually any age can get vaccinated,” Fauci told MSNBC. Elementary school-age children, however, will probably not be vaccinated prior to beginning of classes, he said.
“No. I don’t think so. … I believe that high school kids — adolescents, certainly — will be able to be vaccinated by the time we get to the fall year, but I think it’s going to take till the end of the calendar year to get elementary school kids vaccinated,” Fauci said.
The White House on Thursday responded to the new CDC guidance by lifting its mask mandate for staff and visitors. Congress followed suit, with lawmakers’ offices learning that health officials would be reversing most coronavirus restrictions for fully vaccinated people across the complex.
And although the Capitol physician informed members and staff that fully vaccinated people could resume pre-pandemic activities “without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart,” according to a memo obtained by POLITICO, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN that she would not lift the mask mandate on the House floor until more lawmakers had been vaccinated.
Pelosi’s refusal to roll back the requirement runs counter to the recommendations of public health experts and underscores the messaging challenges now facing the CDC — particularity, conflicting guidance from state and local authorities not yet ready to abandon mask mandates.
On Friday, Walensky stressed that while the CDC “needed to take this first step” in announcing its new mask guidance, “we really do need to understand that this country is not uniform.”
“There are places in this country that still have higher rates of disease. There are places in this country that still have lower rates of vaccination,” she said. “And so, really, people need to look into their local environment.”
Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House’s coronavirus response, also said that although the science on masks and vaccines is now clear, Americans should still look to the private sector and state governments for specific guidance.
“What does everybody do?” Slavitt told Fox News. “What does every state do? What does every employer do? What do we as individuals do? Those decisions are up to us and are up to businesses and are up to states.”