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Biden calls new mask guidance a 'great milestone'

Biden calls new mask guidance a 'great milestone'
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President BidenJoe BidenBiden prepares to confront Putin Ukrainian president thanks G-7 nations for statement of support Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting MORE on Thursday took a rare victory lap on the coronavirus, calling new federal guidance that suggests people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks a "great milestone."

Standing at a lectern in the Rose Garden without a mask on, Biden praised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance, which was announced just an hour before he spoke. 

"If you have been fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. Let me repeat, if you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask," he said.

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"I think it’s a great milestone, a great day. It’s been made possible by the extraordinary success we have had in vaccinating so many Americans, so quickly,” Biden added.

The president, who has often taken a more somber tone when talking about the pandemic, praised the speed of the U.S. vaccination effort, saying its success in such a short time period has led to Americans having fewer restrictions.

"As the virus tragically rages in other countries, as other nations, even wealthy nations, are mired in the challenges of slow vaccine rollout and poor economic conditions, things are very different here," Biden said.

Still, he urged people who have not been vaccinated to continue wearing masks until they can get a shot. Only about a third of the entire population is fully vaccinated so far. 

"Look, we’ve gotten this far. Please protect yourself until you get to the finish line because as great as this announcement is today, we don’t want to let up,” Biden said. “We all know how tough this virus has been. The safest thing for the country is for everyone to get vaccinated. And getting vaccinated is easier than ever.”

Biden acknowledged that there's no way to tell who has been vaccinated and who has not, and that the American public is essentially relying on one another to behave appropriately.

“We don’t enforce it. ... It’s not an enforcement thing, we’re not gonna go out and arrest people,” Biden said. "But the fact of the matter is, I still believe the vast majority of the American people care about the safety of their neighbors, care about the safety of their families."