President Joe Biden snapped back at a reporter who reminded of his previous assertion that vaccinated people would no longer need to wear masks – after the CDC updated its guidance to the contrary.
Fox News White House reporter Peter Doocy appeared to frustrate Biden on Thursday when he brought up the fact that the president said in May: ‘If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask.’
It came at the end of a White House address in which Biden announced a series of new measures meant to boost vaccination rates around the country, and called for Americans to get their shots and follow evolving government mask guidance.
Doocy piped up just as Biden left the podium and was about to walk out of the East Room, saying: ‘In May you made it sound like the vaccine was the ticket to losing the mask forever.’
Biden turned back to reporters and replied: ‘No I didn’t say that. I said if you’re fully vaccinated in an area where you do not have – well, let me clarify, that was true at the time.
‘I thought people would understand that getting vaccinated made a gigantic difference, and what happened was a new variant came along, they didn’t get vaccinated, it spread more rapidly and more people are getting sick. That’s the difference.’
President Biden and Fox News reporter Peter Doocy sparred with one another at the end of a speech in which he pleaded for more people to get vaccinated
Just as Biden walked off the podium Doocy told the president that he had said in May, ‘if you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask.’
On Tuesday, the CDC walked back its mask guidelines, requiring them for those fully-vaccinated in areas with high rates of infection.
‘This is not a decision CDC has made lightly…this is something that weighs heavily on me and all of America,’ said Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, at a news conference.
She also warned that with unmitigated spread, it could only take a few mutations for the virus to be able to bypass the vaccines entirely.
Thursday’s address at the White House saw Biden publicly backing the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on mask requirements.
The CDC urges fully vaccinated individuals to ‘wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission’.
‘If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask,’ Biden said on May 13 as he encouraged more Americans to get inoculated. ‘Get vaccinated — or wear a mask until you do,’ the president had touted
‘What happened is, a new variant came along, they didn’t get vaccinated, it was spread more rapidly, and more people were getting sick,’ Biden explained to Doocy before walking out
Earlier in his address Biden said ‘with incentives and mandates, we can make a huge difference and save a lot of lives.’
Asked about doing even more to get people vaccinated through mandates by states, localities, and businesses, Biden said he wants them to ‘continue to move in that direction.’
He also didn’t rule out the idea of a national mandate, though he wouldn’t vouch for the authority. ‘It’s still a question of whether the federal government can mandate the whole country. I don’t know that yet.’
Biden termed the state-of-play a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated.’
‘In fact virtually all hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated,’ Biden said.
‘This is an American tragedy. People are dying and will die, who don’t have to die,’ he said.
He called for Americans to ‘finish the job,’ with ‘science, with facts, with the truth.’
The president also called on people to embrace the latest CDC guidance on mask-wearing.
‘I hope all Americans who live in areas with substantial or high case rates will follow the mask guidance that’s being laid down by the CDC. I certainly will and I have because this is one of those areas in Washington,’ he said.
Over the past month, the average new daily cases across the country have increased by 376 percent, from 11,887 on June 26 to 56,635 on July 26.
Currently, around 56 percent of Americans have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and half of the country is fully vaccinated.
That means that more than 40 percent of Americans, and 30 percent of adults, are not vaccinated at all.
Biden has shown his frustration with people’s refusal to get a COVID vaccine.
‘If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,’ he said on Tuesday.
And the change in the administration’s handling of the pandemic is becoming notable.
Three months ago, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Biden declared: ‘If you’ve been fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. It’s vaxxed or masked.’
On Fourth of July, the president declared the country’s ‘independence’ from the virus as he hosted a massive party on the South Lawn of the White House.
But the rising COVID cases due to the Delta variant and the refusal by a large set of the population to get vaccinated have set back the administration’s strategy.