White House not ready to ease COVID-19 restrictions despite blue states’ rollbacks
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The White House is not ready to roll back COVID-19 restrictions, despite recent actions taken by governors in blue states like New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and more to scrap portions of their statewide mask mandates.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said the Biden administration is “continuing to evaluate” the most up-to-date data and science before making any changes at the federal level.
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“The president has been clear and has said that we are moving toward a time when COVID won’t disrupt our daily lives – a time when COVID won’t be a constant crisis,” Psaki said Wednesday during the White House press briefing. “There’s an active and ongoing work plan to develop a path forward, and there’s constant discussion about that.”
Psaki said Biden administration officials “want to ensure the public health guidance we’re providing meets the moment we’re in.”
“We recognize people are tired of the pandemic, they’re tired of wearing masks, I bet you all are, I certainly know I am. We all understand that,” Psaki said. “But what our focus is on is looking at the data and science.”
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Psaki pointed to “positive” data suggesting that hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19 are “falling,” but said officials would continue to base guidance for restrictions off of the “latest data and science.”
Psaki, pointing to comments made by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, said that she is continuing “to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission, which is basically the entire country at this point.”
Psaki said officials are “evaluating rates of transmission” and looking at data to “see if any changes need to be made.”
“And that is something, of course, the CDC continues to do,” Psaki explained.
“So, I would say that we are internally discussing, of course, what it looks like to be in the phase of the fight against the COVID pandemic where it is not disrupting everyone’s daily lives, where people are moving on and living, you know , lives free of, hopefully, masks, at some point, and many of the restrictions that we’ve all been living through over the past two years, “Psaki said.
“But, as the federal government, we have a responsibility to rely on data, on science, on medical experts. That’s something the president committed to during the campaign,” Psaki added.
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As for the decisions made by governors to lift restrictions, Psaki said the White House is “continuing to convey directly to governors a recommendation that they abide by federal public health guidelines, but also our understanding and that they may make decisions based on what they feel is best for their communities. “
On Wednesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul became the latest Democratic state leader to lift the statewide indoor mask mandate. Mask mandates for schools and childcare centers, healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, and corrections facilities in the Empire State are still in place.
Hochul said she spoke to Dr. Anthony Fauci, healthcare leaders, business leaders, school superintendents, and teachers unions before making her decisions.
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Hochul’s decision to keep the school mask mandate in place for now follows announcements from other blue states including New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware, that they will be lifting school mask mandates. Connecticut’s statewide mandate will expire Feb. 28 and New Jersey’s will be lifted as of March 7. Delaware’s on March 31.
Asked whether she would consider lifting the school mask mandate on March 7 after students come back from their break and the state looks at test results, Hochul said, “That is a very strong possibility.”
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On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that vaccinated individuals will no longer have to wear masks in most indoor settings next week. California officials, though, said unvaccinated people will still have to wear masks indoors.
Students and staff at K-12 schools in California, though, will also still be required to wear masks indoors after the current mandate expires on Feb. 15, according to the guidance released Monday.
Certain other places, like public transportation and long-term care facilities, will also still require masks indoors.