The Biden administration is not issuing updated masking guidance as coronavirus cases tick up across the country, officials said Thursday, but they acknowledged there are regular conversations between the White House and public health officials about how to combat the virus amid concerns about new variants.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that top White House aides have had initial talks with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials about whether they should update masking guidance to encourage vaccinated Americans to use face coverings in certain settings as the more transmissible delta variant spreads.
CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyCDC working to tighten testing requirement for international travelers Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Omicron sets off a flurry of responses CDC strengthens recommendation to say all adults should get booster shot MORE on Thursday told reporters there has been no change to the agency's guidance, but that "we are always looking at the data as the data come in."
"If you're in an area that has a high case rate and low rates of vaccination where delta cases are rising, you should certainly be wearing a mask if you are unvaccinated," said Walensky, who added that those who are vaccinated can make the personal choice to wear a mask if they choose.
White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOn The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises New variant raises questions about air travel mandates Biden to receive 'regular updates' about Michigan school shooting MORE faced multiple questions about potential changes to the administration's masking guidance during an afternoon press briefing. She emphasized any decision would be led by public health experts, but said there were no new announcements.
"We are regularly in touch and have regular meetings with our public health officials, including the CDC about how to continue to address the virus," Psaki said. "That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Those conversations cover a range of topics."
"I think the most important thing for the public is there hasn’t been a decision made," she added. "It will always be led with public health guidance, and they made that very clear this morning."
The CDC issued guidance in May stating individuals who were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer needed to wear masks. But some local jurisdictions implement new mandates requiring face coverings indoors or in large crowds even for vaccinated individuals in a bid to slow the spread of the delta variant.
The United States as a whole has seen the number of daily virus cases roughly triple over the past few weeks, with the more transmissible delta variant responsible for the majority of infections.