White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended President Joe Biden’s process for determining the federal government’s masking guidance when pressed by a reporter Wednesday.
Some Democratic governors have begun to relax masking and vaccine requirements as COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations are on the decline across America. Psaki was asked if the decision to revise mask guidance would be strictly the call of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or if Biden would weigh factors including children’s mental health and the economy in his decisions.
“He will make the decision based on what the CDC advises,” Psaki initially answered.
“What I’m trying to determine is what does ‘listen’ mean? Does it mean that the CDC calls the shots here? Or, as these governors have done, does the president take into account the trade-offs?” the reporter fired back. “This is about public health, it’s not just some kind of abstract thing in a vacuum. Kids’ mental health is affected by wearing masks, human behavior is a part of this, the economy is part of this. Does he take those into account or does he assume the CDC will do that for him?”
“What he has made the commitment to the American people on, back when he ran for president, and we have tried to abide by, is that he would listen to the data, listen to the science,” Psaki said. “Certainly our health and medical team, obviously the CDC is a part of that — Dr. Fauci, other experts.”
A number of Democratic governors, including in Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and New York, have relaxed or lifted their mask and vaccine mandate in just the last few days. Those governors have cited changing science and COVID-19 metrics as justification, but the White House has not budged in its guidelines for pandemic response. (RELATED: New York Rep. Maloney Says Government Is Ready ‘To Give People Their Lives Back,’ Thanks Biden)
Psaki replied that masks are effective at limiting COVID-19 transmission in schools and elsewhere. She said there are a range of experts who advise the president and make determinations on CDC guidance, and that the White House would continue to rely on those experts.