Four days after the CDC said immunized people could go maskless, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made their first indoor public appearance without face coverings.
They appeared together in the East Room of the White House to announce that the U.S. will share an extra 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the world in the next six weeks.
But just as notable for a country getting to grips with the latest guidance, was the fact that president and vice president arrived without masks.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris arrive in the East Room of the White House without masks on Monday, making use of new CDC guidelines that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks in most circumstances
Although Biden would always remove his mask, Harris would keep hers on while the president spoke. Now she can go without – although she has kept her socially distanced position
Biden said some 60% of Americans had now received at least one shot of the vaccine as he announced that the U.S. will offer another 20 million dose to global vaccination efforts
Biden held out the prospect of going bare faced as a carrot to the unvaccinated as he implored people to get immunized. But he also delivered his message with a stick.
‘Ultimately those who are not vaccinated will end up paying the price,’ he said.
Some 60% of Americans have now had one dose of the vaccine, according to Biden, who said his target was to reach 70% by July 4.
But he urged people to be tolerant of others if they wanted to continue wearing masks.
‘Some people may want to continue to wear a mask even if they’re fully vaccinated. That’s a decision they can make,’ said Biden.
‘Some businesses may want to continue to require wearing masks.
‘Let’s all be kind and respectful of one another as we come out of this pandemic and respect those who want to continue to wear a mask even if they’ve been vaccinated.’
It meant for the first time in power, there was no fumbling with a mask before and after the remarks.
Biden takes questions after delivering remarks on his administration’s COVID-19 response, while Harris looks on
Biden and Harris appeared outdoors without masks in the White House rose garden on Thursday, soon after the CDC issued its new advice that fully vaccinated people did not need to cover up in most situations
And Harris did not have to keep her mask on while the president spoke, although she did take up her usual, socially-distant position far behind the president’s right shoulder.
Biden and Harris went maskless together in the Rose Garden on Thursday, soon after the CDC revised its guidance to say fully vaccinated people did not need to wear a mask except in certain circumstances.
And on Friday, Biden was spotted without a mask as he posed outside the West Wing for photographs with a departing member of staff.
When asked by a journalist if he was enjoying life with a mask, he replied simply: ‘Yes.’
Yet on Sunday he was photographed wearing a mask outdoors as he made his way to and from church.
The easing of mask rules comes as cases continue to drop around the country.
Gov. Greg Abbott thanked Texans for reaching the milestone of zero deaths on Sunday as cases dropped across the state
Texas on Sunday recorded no Covid deaths for the first time since it began tracking daily data in March 2020. At the same time, new cases in the Lone Star State hit a 13-month low.
It comes two months after the state reopened, drawing criticism from public health officials and Biden, who described Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision as ‘Neanderthal thinking.’
‘Thanks Texans,’ said Abbott as he tweeted the milestone.
However, even the good news about masks has triggered confusion around the country because the guidance does not necessarily mean mandates are lifted.
President Biden wore a dark mask outdoors on Sunday as he made his way to and from church, despite new guidance that it was unnecessary for fully vaccinated people
Fully-vaccinated Americans can finally stop wearing their masks almost anywhere – indoors or outdoors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday
States, municipalities and businesses can all decide whether or not to relax mask rules.
There is also no foolproof way to check who is and who is not fully vaccinated.
The administration’s strategy is aimed at ‘working in a way we feel is going to rebuild trust with the American people,’ according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
But that means it ‘will take some time for various sectors to implement’ revised protocols, she added during her daily briefing.
The National Parks Service has already updated its advice, saying only people who are not fully vaccinated – defined as two weeks after a second COVID-19 vaccination -must wear a mask indoors or in crowded outdoor spaces.
And the Office of Management and Budget has lifted mask requirements for vaccinated people in federal buildings.
‘If you are fully vaccinated (at least 2 weeks past your final dose), you are no longer required to wear a mask,’ according to a memo obtained by The Hill.
States including Virginia and Maryland have made similar moves, as have store chains including Costco and Walmart – so long as local regulations allow it.