White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients was asked Sunday to explain why President Biden still wears a mask during press briefings despite being fully vaccinated and standing in a room with fully vaccinated journalists.
"Is it really necessary for a fully vaccinated person to wear a mask at a limited indoor gathering if everyone there is vaccinated?" CNN host Jake Tapper asked Zients during an interview on "State of the Union."
"Well, the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has given guidance that when you’re with family and friends that are vaccinated in small groups you don’t need a mask," Zients said. But Tapper pressed, "So why does President Biden in a room full of vaccinated journalists, everybody in that room vaccinated, why does he need to wear a mask?"
"The president is going to continue to follow the CDC guidance," Zients continued. "It's just a matter of a few weeks ago when an all states made vaccines eligible for all Americans. So there still are Americans who want to get vaccinated, who may just have their first shot and are waiting for their second shot or who haven't had an opportunity to get their first shot."
Biden set a goal for 70% of Americans to receive at least the first shot of the vaccine by July 4. As of Sunday, that number stands at 58%, Zients said, adding that the Biden administration would continue to look to chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine whether follow-up booster shots will be necessary this fall.
"We all want to get back to a normal lifestyle. I think we're on the path to do that. But stay disciplined and let's take advantage of the new privileges of being vaccinated and not wearing a mask outdoors, for example, unless you're in a crowded place," Zients said. "As we all move toward that 70 percent goal, there'll be more and more advantages to being vaccinated. And if you're not vaccinated, you're not protected."
Tapper still pressed the issue as to why Biden would wear a mask in a room of fully vaccinated people.
"I think one of the reasons why journalists are annoyingly harping on this ... and some health experts are ... is because there is a light at the end of the tunnel and President Biden being able to take off his mask in a room full of journalists and White House staffers, all of whom are fully vaccinated, is a demonstration that the vaccines work," Tapper offered. "You and I are both vaccinated and you and I are in a room together talking. And I have no fear that I'm going to get the virus from you and I assume vice versa. And I think the concern is that by being overly cautious, the signal is going out to the public that there isn't necessarily light at the end of the tunnel."
Neither Tapper nor Zients were wearing masks while they sat across from each other in the indoor studio.
To that, Zients responded, "Everyone is tired, and wearing a mask is, can be a pain, but we're getting there and the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter and brighter. Let's keep up our guard. Let's follow the CDC guidance. And the CDC guidance across time will allow vaccinated people more and more privileges to take off that mask."