Biden Mulls New COVID Restrictions as White House Flip-Flops on Federal Vaccination Mandate
12:30 GMT 31.07.2021 (Updated: 15:54 GMT 31.07.2021)
© REUTERS / Jim BourgA view of the White House in Washington, U.S. January 18, 2021.
© REUTERS / Jim Bourg
The CDC earlier reinstated a federal mask mandate demanding that all people, including those fully vaccinated, put on face covers indoors. The move sparked dissatisfaction with people and many Republican lawmakers, governors, and politicians, due to the CDC and the White House earlier promising to keep the vaccinated mask-free.
US President Joe Biden has hinted that new COVID restrictions in addition to a federal mask mandate might be on the way, saying "in all probability" such a scenario is likely to occur.
He did not elaborate about what that might imply, only praising the recent success in vaccinations and noting that one million Americans had received shots on 30 July alone. Half of them, according to the president, took the first component and hopefully will get the second.
"I'm hopeful that people are beginning to realise how essential it is to move [towards full vaccination]", Biden said.
Biden's hints about new restrictions come in the wake of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week issuing updated guidelines, directing Americans to wear masks indoors even if they have been vaccinated. The move directly contradicted CDC Director Rochelle Walensky's promise earlier this month that people who received both jabs wouldn't need to wear masks.
The policy about-face was caused by the raging Delta strain of COVID-19 in the US and the underperforming vaccination campaign in some states. Over 69% of adult Americans have received at least one shot of the vaccine, giving them some degree of protection, while 60.2% have been fully vaccinated. Yet, those who couldn't or wouldn't get the vaccine still might catch COVID-19 from vaccinated carriers of the virus, prompting the CDC's concerns. The order to mask up again, however, did not sit well with Republican politicians, who slammed the new CDC guidelines as being politically motivated.
Flip-Flopping on Vaccine Mandates
President Biden has routinely called for Americans to get vaccinated against COVID, but when it comes to federal vaccination mandates – Washington seemingly lacks a unified view on the issue. Biden himself said on 29 July that the Justice Department was reviewing the legality of imposing such a mandate.
"I had asked the Justice Department to determine whether that is - they're able to do that legally, and they can. Local communities can do that. Local businesses can do that. It's still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country. I don't know that yet", Biden said.
But soon, presidential adviser on coronavirus, Jeff Zients, strongly rejected the notion that the White House was exploring such and option and claimed that Washington was only wondering if employers can mandate their employees to get jabs.
The same flip-flop approach on vaccine mandates could be seen this week in CDC Director Rochelle Walensky's statements. In an interview with Fox News, she was positive that the White House was looking at the possibility of introducing a federal vaccination mandate.
"That's something that I think the administration is looking into. It's something that I think we are looking to see approval of, from the vaccine. […] But, I have nothing further to say on that except that we are looking into those policies", Walensky said responding to a direct question by a Fox News host regarding the possibility of Washington introducing such a mandate.
Soon afterwards Walensky made a U-turn, claiming on Twitter that she referred to "mandates by private institutions", as well as "portions of the federal government" rather than a federal mandate in her interview with Fox.