President Biden said on Tuesday he was weighing whether all federal workers should be vaccinated against COVID-19 as the country faces rising infection rates and hospitalizations caused by the rampant Delta variant.
He spoke just after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that fully vaccinated against COVID-19 go back to wearing masks indoors in regions where infections are on the rise.
The moves illustrate how far the country is from the “summer of freedom” Biden promised last month.
Biden was asked about mandatory vaccinations for federal employees during a visit to the office of the director of national intelligence.
“That’s under consideration now,” he said, “but if you haven’t been vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.”
He added that masking and vaccination were the best way to avoid a repeat of the lockdowns the country went through last year.
President Biden said mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for federal employees were “under consideration” during a visit to the office of the director of national intelligence in McLean, VA
He denied that changing the official advice caused any confusion, saying instead that it was the unvaccinated who were responsible for the rising infection levels.
The Delta variant is blamed for the rising number of COVID-19 infections in the US, leading to a series of new measures to stop its spread
President Biden Promised a ‘Summer of Freedom’, But Numbers Continue to Rise
“The more we learn about this virus and its Delta variant, the more we should be concerned and concerned,” he said.
“And the only thing we know for sure is that if those other 100 million people were vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world.”
Meanwhile, the White House released a statement in which Biden said he would outline the “next steps” to get more Americans vaccinated on Thursday.
“By following the science and doing our part by getting us vaccinated, America can beat COVID,” he said.
“In the meantime, more vaccinations and masking in the areas most affected by the Delta variant will allow us to avoid the kind of lockdowns, shutdowns, school closures and disruptions we faced in 2020.”
Earlier, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said vaccinated people should wear masks indoors to protect their loved ones.
“We’re not saying wearing a mask is convenient, or that people feel like it, but we’re telling you that this is the way to protect yourself, protect your loved ones, and that’s why the CDC provides these guidelines.” she said.
The White House is preparing to return to wearing masks if required by new federal guidelines and rising rates of COVID-19, she added.
Critics have accused infectious disease experts of flip-flops on their guidance.
But Psaki said the Delta variant had turned scientific thinking on its head since masking requirements were relaxed.
“That’s their job,” she said.
“It is their job to look at evolving information, evolving data, an evolving historical pandemic and provide guidance to the American public.”
At the White House, that would mean officials are preparing to follow the new CDC guidelines and monitor conditions that may require masking.
“First, of course, we will abide by every aspect of the CDC guidelines on masking they provide this afternoon,” she said.
“And that means, as you said, we’ll look at the rates in different areas that the president can move in and also the rates if they move in Washington, DC, and we’ll apply guidelines accordingly.”
While cases are rising, officials say vaccination protects against developing severe cases of COVID-19 and saves lives
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said guidelines were changing as positions on the ground changed and scientists understood more about the virus and the pandemic
The new guideline sets a threshold for masking at 50 cases per 100,000 people, based on a seven-day moving average.
In Washington, DC, the figure stands at a shadow of more than 45 cases per 100,000.
During the daily briefing, Psaki faced repeated questions about whether President Biden was too quick to declare a “summer of freedom” last month as the country faces setbacks in the fight against COVID-19.
She insisted it was responsible to update the guidelines if circumstances changed.
“We are at war, we remain at war with a virus and an evolving pandemic,” she said.
“Our responsibility here is to always start with the science and always lead with the advice of health and medical experts, and we will continue to provide information to all of you on how to protect yourself and save your life. ‘
Most new infections in the US are still among unvaccinated people. But “breakthrough” infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people.