White House pressed on mask guidance, why scientists didn't brief public

COVID's delta variant can spread more than twice as easily

The White House is sticking closely to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance, urging both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans in high-risk areas to mask back up indoors, when pressed by reporters during Friday's press briefing. 

Principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the CDC's new recommendation this week that some vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors "under certain circumstances." The agency also recommended that students aged K-12 should wear masks in the classroom regardless of their vaccination status.

Fox News' Peter Doocy asked Jean-Pierre directly during the briefing, "Why is [President Biden] asking vaccinated people to mask up?"

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Jean-Pierre responded by listing off the CDC's facts about the coronavirus' more contagious delta variant, including how it can spread more than twice as easily from one person to another and reiterating that the agency has found that mask usage works to stop the spread of the virus between individuals.

Ultimately, getting more Americans vaccinated is the most effective way to stop the spread of delta, said Jean-Pierre.

"We need to get people vaccinated. That is really the answer here. That is what we are seeing from the CDC. People need to get vaccinated. That is how to fight delta," Jean-Pierre responded. 

Other reporters pressed Jean-Pierre about why the White House skipped its weekly coronavirus briefing with doctors and health experts this week, especially as the CDC released new guidance without including any of the data behind its decision. 

Jean-Pierre responded by stating that President Biden gave a speech Thursday to address the new guidance, and CDC officials and health experts have also been hitting the TV networks' shows to get the new information out to the American people.

"They've been out there. They're not hiding. They're actually speaking to this almost every day," Jean-Pierre stated.

The principal deputy press secretary also told reporters that the country is "not going to head towards a lockdown," despite her comments during the press briefing on Thursday that suggested the administration was open to "listening to the science" that might suggest future shutdowns or school closures.

Jean-Pierre walked back her remarks in a series of tweets Thursday evening, stating that the administration is actually not considering lockdowns, despite her earlier remarks.

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"We are not going to head towards a lockdown. We need to make sure to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible," Jean-Pierre also reiterated during Thursday's briefing.

The CDC is set to release data behind its updated mask guidance on Friday.