President Biden on Thursday said that Democratic governors ending COVID-19 indoor mask mandates are “probably premature” — before hedging and adding “it’s a tough call.”
Biden sided with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after a half dozen states led by Democrats said this week they’re going to end indoor mask requirements as new coronavirus cases drop.
“I committed that I would follow the science as put forward by the CDC and the federal people and I think it’s probably premature, but it’s, you know, it’s a tough call,” Biden told NBC journalist Lester Holt in his first TV interview of 2022.
Biden said that schools will have less reason to require masks with increasing eligibility for vaccines among young children — but he seemed unfamiliar with the details.
Biden said that children younger than 7 years old soon will be eligible for vaccines, even though the CDC approved all people ages five and up, or virtually all elementary school-aged children, for vaccination in November†
“What’s happening is every day that goes by children are more protected,” Biden told Holt† “We’re now on the verge of being able to have shots for children under the age of seven and young children and and so the more protection they have, probably you’re going to see less and less requirement to have the mask.”
According to CDC data, more than 80 percent of US citizens ages five and up have had at least one coronavirus shot. For adults, 87.4 percent got at least one shot.
New York is among the states scrapping mask mandates as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 subsides.
The statewide New York “mask or vax” rule for customers of private businesses ended Thursday and is now optional for counties, cities and businesses. People still need to wear masks in schools and on mass transit.
gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) said Wednesday that “given the declining cases, given the declining hospitalizations, that is why we feel comfortable to lift this in effect tomorrow.”
The Democratic governors of California, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon announced similar mask rollbacks this week.
But CDC Director Rochelle Walkensky dug in during a Wednesday virtual press briefing by the White House coronavirus task force — citing the fact that coronavirus deaths remain high, with a daily average of more than 2,300 US deaths.
“Our hospitalizations are still high, our death rates are still high,” Walensky said. “So, as we work toward that and as we are encouraged by the current trends, we are not there yet.”