The White House doubled down on President Biden’s continued use of face masks Sunday — amid an ongoing criticism that he’s sending mixed messages on vaccines.
Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, defended Biden in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday – days after the fully-vaccinated president had an exchange with a reporter over wearing a mask at an indoor event in the White House East Room
“Is it really necessary for a fully vaccinated person to wear a mask at a limited indoor gathering if everyone there is vaccinated?” host Jake Tapper asked Zients.
“Well, the CDC has given guidance that when you’re with family and friends that are vaccinated in small groups, you don’t need a mask,” Zients answered.
But Tapper pressed him: “So why does President Biden, in a room full of vaccinated journalists, with everybody in that room vaccinated, why does he need to wear a mask?”
Zients repeated that Biden would follow the CDC guidance.
“It’s just a matter of a few weeks when all states made vaccines eligible for all Americans,” Zients said.
“So there still are Americans who want to get vaccinated and they just have their first shot and are waiting for their second shot, or haven’t had the opportunity yet to have their first shot.”
The Biden administration has set July 4 as a goal date to have first doses in the arm of 70 percent of all Americans, Zients noted.
President Joe Biden wearing a mask as he walks to Marine One on May 7, 2021.AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
But that still wasn’t enough for Tapper.
“I think one of the reasons why journalists are annoyingly harping on this, and some health experts are, is because there is a light at the end of the tunnel and President Biden being able to take off his mask in a roomful of journalists and White House staffers — all of whom are fully vaccinated — is a demonstration that the vaccines work,” he said.
Tapper noted that he and Zients were both vaccinated and speaking to each other maskless during the interview.
“I think the concern is that by being overly cautious the signal is going out to the public that there isn’t necessarily a light at the end of the tunnel,” Tapper said.
Zients replied that the light at the end of the tunnel is “brighter and brighter.”
“I think everyone is tired and wearing a mask is, can be a pain,” he said.
“Let’s keep up our guard, let’s follow the CDC guidance,” he added. “And the CDC guidance across time will allow vaccinated people more and more privileges to take off that mask.”