White House considering push for masks: report

The White House is reportedly in talks with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other top administration officials on whether to push for updated mask guidance amid a surge in delta variant infections across the country. 

Six people familiar with the discussions told The Washington Post that talks are still in the early stages, though officials said any updated guidelines on wearing masks would come directly from the CDC. 

Under the CDC’s current health guidelines, Americans who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks in most settings, though a federal mask mandate remains in place for airlines and other forms of public transportation. 

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The reported discussions come as health officials have warned that the country is now facing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” as areas with relatively low vaccination rates are now experiencing surges in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. 

In Missouri, one of the new epicenters for the coronavirus surge, Gov. Mike Parson (R) announced Wednesday that the state would be offering monetary incentives to residents to boost the pace of vaccinations, with people who have gotten the vaccine eligible for one of 900 prizes worth $10,000. Thus far, just 40 percent of Missouri’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to CDC data

Officials who spoke to the Post said that the White House aims to maintain a hands-off approach and leave it up to the CDC on the best path forward for mask guidelines. 

“At the White House, we follow the guidance and advice of health and medical experts,” assistant White House press secretary Kevin Munoz told the newspaper.

“Public health guidance is made by the CDC, and they continue to recommend that fully vaccinated individuals do not wear a mask,” he added. “If you are not vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask.”

A federal health official told the Post that no final decision has been made, and that the CDC was considering all options. 

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“At this time, we have no intention of changing our masking guidance,” CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said in a statement.

President BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE during his Wednesday evening CNN town hall said the CDC would likely be issuing guidance encouraging children who have not been vaccinated to wear masks when they return to schools in the fall. 

Biden said that enforcing the guidance would be difficult, but would be a “community responsibility.”