It seems that the era of the mask is at an end with announcements from both President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci… Or is it? Two weeks after the CDC released its latest guidance suggesting that those who have received a COVID vaccination no longer need to wear masks in outdoor spaces, the White House chief medical adviser echoed this sentiment during an appearance on CBS. He said:
“If you are vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask outside. We’ve got to make that transition …
It would be a very unusual situation; if you were going into a completely crowded situation where people are essentially falling all over each other, then you wear a mask. But any other time, if you’re vaccinated and you’re outside, put aside your mask. You don’t have to wear it.”
Hot on his heels came the president, who issued another announcement that sparked confusion rather than clarity. On his Twitter account, Biden wrote:
“The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do. The choice is yours.”
Social media users and even some folks in the regular media were quick to point out that this wasn’t quite the right message. Journalist Glenn Greenwald noted that “This is not actually a rule.” Other commentators derided the president for what they saw as the creation of a pressure campaign to encourage vaccination.
So What is the Rule?
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at an earlier White House briefing that “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities — large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing … If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
Some concerns are being raised regarding children and whether they should also continue to wear masks, with vaccines not yet being fully approved for those under the age of twelve. Bloomberg reporter Dana Hull tweeted, “Really hard for parents who have kids under 12 to square this.”
A Question of Choice?
With numerous programs being rolled out across the country to urge people to get vaccinated, there are concerns that a two-tiered society is forming. In Chicago, free concert tickets, discounts, and access to public spaces are being touted as a reward for those who agree to use a “vaccine passport.”
Respondents to Mr. Biden’s tweet asked whether they would be denied goods, services, or access to programs if they were not vaccinated. And this is a question that the president will have to answer in due course.
During a Rose Garden address, Biden appeared, sans mask, and said, “We’re not going to go out and arrest people. If you haven’t been vaccinated, wear your mask for your own protection and the protection of the people who also have not been vaccinated yet.”
Read more from Mark Angelides.