President Joe Biden suggested Friday that Americans should expect new COVID-related restrictions amid rising cases that public health experts attribute to the highly contagious so-called "delta variant."
When asked by a reporter whether new restrictions are coming for Americans, Biden responded, "In all probability." The president did not elaborate on the details of the potential restrictions.
Biden's admission appears to contradict what White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told media members on Friday. According to CNN, Jean-Pierre said, "we are not going to head toward a lockdown."
"Our goal is to make sure that we are not headed toward that — that is not going to be the direction that we take because we have the tools to prevent that," she explained, referring to vaccination.
Biden's remarks came days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its face mask guidance, recommending that fully vaccinated people wear face masks in regions with high transmission rates of COVID-19. Previously, the agency said fully vaccinated Americans could return to normal life without face masks or social distancing.
What about a vaccine mandate?
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky clarified on Friday that a national vaccine mandate will not happen after seemingly suggesting on Fox News that she and Biden were "looking into" the possibility.
"To clarify: There will be no nationwide mandate. I was referring to mandates by private institutions and portions of the federal government. There will be no federal mandate," Walensky said.
Biden, however, is urging states, schools, and private companies to institute vaccine mandates. He explained on Thursday the Justice Department has reaffirmed the legality of such measures.
Regarding a federal vaccine mandate, Biden said, "It's still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country. I don't know that yet."
Also on Thursday, Biden unveiled new rules for federal workers that impose strict requirements for those who are unvaccinated. The Associated Press reported:
Federal workers will be required to sign forms attesting they've been vaccinated against the coronavirus or else comply with new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing and more. The strict new guidelines are aimed at increasing sluggish vaccination rates among the huge number of Americans who draw federal paychecks — and to set an example for private employers around the country.
"If in fact you are unvaccinated, you present a problem to yourself, to your family and those with whom you work," Biden said Thursday.