White House, CDC May Change Mask Policy

But big challenges lie ahead
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2021 2:10 PM CDT
White House Wrestling With Mask Policy
President Biden takes off his mask before walking down the steps of Air Force One after arriving at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Raleigh, N.C., on June 24.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

What to do about masks? As the number of COVID cases continues to spike, top US health officials are wrestling with what type of guidance to offer on masks, particularly to people already vaccinated. A number of stories were exploring that:

  • High-level talks: CNN reports that "preliminary discussions" are underway among top Biden health officials on whether official recommendations should be revised. The Washington Post also says talks are underway between administration officials and CDC officials, as well as separately within the CDC. The health agency said earlier this year that fully vaccinated people can ditch masks in most instances, but the delta variant is causing some second thoughts.
  • One possibility: All of the above could result in anything from informal messaging out of the White House to official policy changes at the CDC, or something in between. One possibility, per the Post: Recommending that all Americans wear masks when vaccinated and unvaccinated people are together in public places or indoors. Malls and movie theaters would be two examples.

  • Congress, too: "I'm told there's a sudden boomerang in worry about COVID among vaccinated lawmakers on Capitol Hill, with talk of canceled trips and dinners, and debate about restoring mask mandates," writes Mike Allen at Axios. More lawmakers and staffers on Capitol Hill are masking up again, especially those with children too young to be vaccinated, according to a separate Axios story.
  • The challenge: Another Post story illustrates the challenge of enacting any national policy. After sprawling Los Angeles County reinstituted its mask mandate, individual municipalities have begun pushing back. "We have had enough of these policies! We demand that you stop this one-size-fits-all approach to health and health outcomes,” wrote officials from towns including El Segundo, Torrance, and Manhattan Beach.
  • The challenge, II: At STAT News, Helen Branswell quotes a Maine health official who says it might be difficult to convince fully vaccinated people to mask up again. “I was telling my wife … in public health we like a belt-and-suspenders approach,” says Nirav Shah. “For vaccinated people, it’s going to be belt or suspenders. And in their minds, they got their thing. They got their belt. So, it’s going to be a challenge.”
(More face masks stories.)

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