CNN's Jake Tapper pushed President Joe Biden's COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients on why the president refuses to follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on face masks for people who are fully vaccinated against the virus.
Zients responded by claiming the president actually was following agency guidance while misquoting what the CDC's guidance actually is.
What's the background?
President Biden, who has been fully vaccinated since January, has sent a lot of mixed messages on face masks and CDC guidance, despite repeated claims that he and his administration would be "following the science" when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.
Late last month, the CDC issued new face mask guidelines saying that fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear masks outdoors, or even indoors in many cases. Fully vaccinated people, the CDC said, can gather outdoors without wearing a mask except in certain crowded settings and can also gather indoors without wearing a mask or staying six feet apart.
Yet just a couple days after the agency issued its new "science-based" guidance, Biden was on NBC's "Today" saying he would keep flouting the new mask rules by wearing a mask outdoors because, he said, "it's a patriotic responsibility for God's sake."
And last Friday, the president was asked during an event at the White House why he chose to wear a mask when he's fully vaccinated and around others who are also vaccinated.
He responded, "Because when we're inside, it's still good policy to wear the mask."
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What did the COVID czar say?
Noting the Friday exchange, Tapper asked Zients if it is "really necessary for a fully vaccinated person to wear a mask at a limited indoor gathering if everyone there is vaccinated."
Zients responded by misquoting the actual guidance from the CDC.
"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," the COVID czar said.
But that's not what the CDC's mask guidance for fully vaccinated people says.
According to the CDC, "If you've been fully vaccinated: You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart."
Tapper — who confronted senior Biden adviser Anita Dunn on the same topic a week earlier — continued to press Zients on the president's mixed messages about vaccines and notion of trusting the experts.
"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?" Tapper asked.
Zients replied, "The president is going to continue to follow the CDC guidance" — though he didn't admit that the CDC's official guidance is to do the opposite of what President Biden is doing.
Tapper also cited former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb's recent recommendation that the CDC start lifting indoor mask mandates now, in order to send a message of science-based vaccine confidence.
But Biden's COVID coordinator was not to be moved off his defense of his boss' decision to ignore actual CDC guidance:
We're going to look to the CDC. The president from day one has said we're going to rely on science and facts, and that's what we'll do. The CDC has, across the last several weeks, given guidance for vaccinated people to do indoor gatherings with other vaccinated people, as I talked about earlier, to not wear masks outside, except when you're in a very crowded place. And we look forward to further guidance from the CDC about what the advantages are of being vaccinated. What is clear is anyone who's not vaccinated should get vaccinated.
However, Tapper continued to press Zients on the messaging, saying, "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 room full of journalists and White House staffers, all of whom are fully vaccinated, is a demonstration that the vaccines work."
Yet Zients obfuscated on the president's repeated and obvious refusal to follow CDC guidelines — and then preached that all Americans should ... "follow the CDC guidance."
Jake Tapper presses WH Covid-19 coordinator on vaccinated Biden wearing a mask youtu.be