Biden says states easing mask mandates ‘probably premature’

President Biden said Thursday that decisions by a growing number of states to lift mask mandates are “probably premature” but acknowledged that such decisions are a “tough call.”  

In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Biden seemed to try to avoid directly criticizing governors for easing mask mandates, but stood by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation for masking in much of the country.  

“The science is saying now masks work, masks make a difference,” Biden said.  

“I committed that I would follow the science, the science as put forward by the CDC and the federal people,” Biden said later. “I think it’s probably premature but it’s a tough call.”  

Biden acknowledged that the current patchwork of guidance at the federal and state and local level is “confusing” but suggested that the need for masks, especially in schools, might ease once the COVID-19 vaccines are approved for younger children.  

Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is approved for Americans ages 5 and up.  

A number of Democrat-run states this week announced plans to lift or ease mask mandates in at least some settings. These states included Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts, which are lifting mask mandates in schools.

Some states are opting for a phased approach as the wave driven by the omicron coronavirus variant subsides, which Biden noted in his answer to Holt.  

Still, the developments have put the White House in an awkward position. The CDC continues to recommend mask use in areas of high and substantial transmission, which applies to most of the country.  

The Biden administration has faced pressure from some corners to offer updated guidance on masking to help inform state and local decisions.   

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that the agency is reviewing its guidance and signaled it could be updated.  

Tags CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Joe Biden mask mandates Rochelle Walensky school mask mandates
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