The White House was pressed Tuesday on why vaccinated people should return to wearing masks in certain situations since the COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing serious disease.
Press secretary Jen Psaki responded to a question from Fox News’ Peter Doocy by saying that masks are an “extra step” that provides further protection against COVID-19, while maintaining that vaccines against COVID-19 “work.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to announce Tuesday 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.
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.
Psaki was asked why President Biden told Americans they were no longer required to wear masks if there was a potential for a change in guidance.
Psaki defended the comments, saying that “we’re all dealing with an evolving virus where there’s no playbook and no historic precedent.”
“What the American people should feel confident in is that we are going to continue to be guided by science, look at public health data in order to provide new guidance if it’s needed to save lives, protect the American people,” Psaki said.
“When [the president] made those comments back in May, we were dealing with a very different strain of the virus than we are today,” Psaki continued. “And delta is more transmissible. It is spreading much more quickly.”
Psaki said that at the time of the CDC’s May guidance, and the president’s remarks, the delta variant was “nearly nonexistent in the United States.”
Despite the evolving guidance from the CDC, Psaki said that the president is “satisfied with the fact that they are continuing to look at public health data and provide public health guidance to the American public about how they can protect their lives and the lives of loved ones around them.”
As for vaccines, Psaki said getting vaccinated “can save your life.”
“I think the clear data shows that this pandemic is killing, it is hospitalizing, and it is making people very sick who are not vaccinated,” she said. “That still continues to be the case regardless of what the mask guidance is.”
She added: “The vaccines work.”
The delta variant has ripped through the unvaccinated population in America, with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky saying the variant is “spreading with incredible efficiency and now represents more than 83% of the virus circulating the United States.”
According to the CDC, more than 163 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, while more than 188 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.