President Joe Biden told Americans who have their full COVID vaccine to remove their face masks and his wife Jill, visiting West Virginia, did just that.
‘If you’re fully vaccinated, take your mask off. You’ve earned the right to do something that Americans are known for all around the world, greeting others with a smile,’ President Biden said during remarks in the White House Rose Garden.
And a maskless first lady was all smiles when she stepped off her plane in Charleston, W. Va., on Thursday, one of the first to appear in public without a face covering after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced their new guidelines.
Actress Jennifer Garner greeted Dr. Biden. She had a face mask on but took hers off when she saw the situation.
The mood was jovial with the maskless duo chatting excitingly on the tarmac.
Back at the White House, President Biden took the credit for bringing the virus under control.
He said: ‘I think it’s a great milestone, a great day. It’s been made possible by the extraordinary success we have had in vaccinating so many Americans, so quickly.
‘Over the past 114 days, our vaccination program has led the world and that’s due to the incredible hard work of so many people.
‘The scientists and researchers, the drug companies, the National Guard, the US Military, FEMA, the nation’s governors, doctors, nurses, pharmacists. Everyone who has moved heaven and Earth to get as many shots into arms of as many Americans as possible. It’s truly been an all hands on deck for the country effort.’
Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden go without their face masks in the Rose Garden of the White House after new CDC guidelines were announced
Actress Jennifer Garner greets first lady Jill Biden in Charleston, W.Va.; the two women followed new CDC guidelines and went maskless
President Biden steps out of the Oval Office without a face mask
President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris beside him, asked those not fully vaccinated to continue to wear a face mask although he promised no mask police
White House staff remove their face masks; from right: Communications Director Katherine Bedingfield, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, senior adviser Anita Dunn, Chief of Staff Ron Klain, and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients
President Biden tempered his delight at the new rules with words of caution.
‘We’ve gotten this far. Please protect yourself until you get to the finish line. Because as great as this announcement is today. We don’t want to let up,’ he said.
‘The rule is very simple. Get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do is vaccinated,’ he added.
He also noted there would be no enforcement, addressing concerns of some they may have to prove their vaccinated status.
‘We’re not going to go out and arrest people,’ Biden said. ‘If you’ve been vaccinated you don’t wear your mask, and they can shake hands and give each other a hug. But if you’ve not been vaccinated. Please wear a mask. Please wear the mask.’
On Thursday the CDC announced that most fully-vaccinated Americans can stop wearing their masks almost anywhere – indoors or outdoors.
The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters but is meant to help get vaccinated Americans back to their normal lives.
The Biden administration faced pressure to ease up on restrictions as more than 108 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. It’s also hoped the new guidelines will coax those reluctant to get their second dose or to get inoculated at all to get the vaccine.
White House aides were in the Rose Garden maskless, including chief of staff Ron Klain, senior adviser Anita Dunn, and press secretary Jen Psaki.
Other White House staff tweeted their excitement at being able to see colleagues without a face covering.
And Vice President Kamala Harris, standing out in the Rose Garden without a mask, greeted the president upon his arrival with: ‘You’ve got a great smile.’
Thursday started out like the past 15 months have gone. President Biden wore a face mask in the Oval Office when he met with Republican senators on infrastructure.
Jill Biden, dressed in a white dress with a pink blazer over it, wore a pink face mask mask when she departed Washington D.C. earlier in the day.
But she was happy to remove it.
‘We feel naked,’ the first lady said about not wearing one. Then she paused. ‘I didn’t mean it that way!’
She also joked she learned about the new rule during the flight – and after she had bought a mask that matched her outfit.
‘We just learned as we got off the plane,’ she said of new mask guidance. ‘And here I had gone out to buy one that was coordinated with my outfit so you can’t win.’
Actress Jennifer Garner (R) looks on as First Lady Jill Biden speaks with a student getting vaccinated at Capital High School in Charleston, West Virginia
Senator Joe Manchin and his wife Gayle – in the back – joined Jill Biden for her trip to West Virginia as the White House woos Manchin for its legislative agenda
Mark Shriver, the president of Save the Children Action Network; Jennifer Garner; Jill Biden; Gayle Manchin; and Senator Joe Manchin in West Virginia
Jill Biden wore a pink face mask when she left for West Virginia on Thursday morning
President Biden started his day in a face mask, wearing one in a meeting with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito
First lady Jill Biden, right, arrives at a vaccination clinic, at Capital High School in Charleston, W.Va. Arriving with her are actress Jennifer Garner, center, along with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, left, and his wife, Gayle Manchin
HOW AMERICA FLIP-FLOPPED ON FACE MASKS FOR COVID-19
DECEMBER 31 2019: Officials in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei Province identify a cluster of pneumonia cases from an unknown cause.
JANUARY 12 2020: China shares genetic sequence of a new virus, later named SARS-NoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19.
JANUARY 21 2020: CDC confirms first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. in a man in his 30s who returned to Washington state from China.
FEBRUARY 12 2020: CDC tells Americans it does not recommend masks.
At the time, there were just 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., and officials that day confirmed the first death.
‘At this time, some partners are reporting higher than usual demand for select N95 respirators and face masks. CDC does not currently recommend the use of face masks for the general public. This virus is not spreading in the community,’ said then-director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr Nancy Messonnier.
The CDC did say that people who were sick with possible COVID-19 or in close contact with someone who might have it should wear a mask when around others.
MARCH 2020: Federal officials at the CDC, Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Surgeon General all said that while the U.S. should brace for the spread of coronavirus, Americans should not wear them if they were not sick with suspected Covid or around someone who might be infected.
Experts said that surgical and cloth masks were not tightly woven enough to reduce the spread of the tiny virus and that people didn’t know how to properly use them.
And they continued to urge Americans not to buy up high-grade N95 masks in order to preserve them for health care workers who might be in contact with COVID-19 patients.
Masks were already being bought up, and former President Trump used the Defense Production Act to obtain N95s from M3 to bolster supplies for health care workers.
APRIL 3 2020: CDC officially recommends all Americans wear cloth masks in public voluntarily.
Former President Trump announced the guidelines, but said he would not wear one. He would not e seen wearing a mask until July 11.
APRIL 10 2020: Masks became extremely hard to find as Americans bought up massive supplies of them and shipments from china, where mot were made, were cut off.
APRIL 17 2020: Five states – New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland and New York, had all mandated masks in public by this date.
JUNE 8 2020: The WHO, which had also urged people not to buy masks to preserve supply for medical workers, finally recommended people wear masks in public.
JULY 11 2020: Former President Trump was seen wearing a face mask for the first time while visiting wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, DC. More than 20 states already had mask mandates in place.
JANUARY 20 2021: President Biden issued a mask mandate for all federal property.
JANUARY 31 2021: TSA issues a mask mandate for all federally operated mass transit, including buses, trains, train stations, airplanes and airports.
APRIL 6 2021: CDC updates guidance to say that wearing two masks, such as a cloth mask over a surgical one, may offer up to 95 percent better protection than wearing two – almost exactly one year after it made its first mask recommendation.
APRIL 20 2021: CDC updates its guidelines to say that fully vaccinated Americans can safely exercise and gather with vaccinated and unvaccinated people outdoors – but should still wear a mask indoors if they are around vaccinated people or when in crowded outdoor settings like concerts.
MAY 13 2021: CDC updates its guidelines again to say that fully vaccinated Americans can go without masks indoors or outdoors, in large or small groups, except in crowded indoor locations like planes, buses and prisons, or in places with specific measures like hospitals.
But the first lady was gleeful about the chance to go maskless.
‘Now, the clouds are finally breaking. Spring’s more beautiful than ever. And the best is yet to come,’ she said. ‘Let’s have some fun.’
Garner, meanwhile, revealed two of her three kids with actor Ben Affleck will get vaccinated on Friday. Children 12 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine, according to CDC guidelines. There are about 17 million children between the ages of 12 and 15 in the United States, which is about 5 percent of the population.
‘I am thrilled to be vaccinating, two of my three kids on Tuesday,’ she said. ‘I don’t even know if they know it yet.’
Garner, who had her parents with her, praised the Biden administration for being able to go maskless.
‘It’s so exciting I kind of can’t believe that I’m standing here without a mask on looking at maskless faces, and we owe that to President Biden,’ Garner said.
‘Biden said he would get us vaccinated. Boy, did he mean it,’ she added.
Garner, a West Virginia native, served on the board of Save the Children with Dr. Jill Biden and campaigned for Joe Biden during the 2020 campaign.
She and Biden spent several minutes talking animatedly at the airport – waving their hands at each other – before posing for a round of photos. Two local students gave each woman a bouquet of flowers.
Mark Shriver, the president of Save the Children Action Network, an organization that provides resources to low-income families, also was at the airport. Jill Biden gave him an elbow bump.
Biden also was accompanied by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and his wife, Gayle as the White House woos the West Virginia senator on its legislative agenda.
The East Wing invited Manchin because it is his home state, and he accepted the invitation, according to Jill Biden spokesman Michael LaRosa.
The group went to Capital High to visit a vaccination clinic for students age 12 – 15, where a group of junior ROTC officers greeted them upon their arrival.
‘I know you just want to see Jennifer Garner,’ Biden joked with them.
‘They’ve seen me their whole lives!’ ‘Garner exclaimed. ‘Thank you for your service, kids.’
At the vaccination clinic in the school gym, Biden held the hand of a teenager getting vaccinated, and then asked the girl if she knows Garner.
‘Yes I love all of your movies,’ the girl said. Garner congratulated her on getting vaccinated, and spent several minutes talking with her.
Manchin touted the new guidelines and what they mean for his state during the stop.
‘You’ve all seen the latest from the CDC? That means no masks inside or outside,’ Manchin said.
He said ‘it means get vaccinated. We feel free!’
Garner also teased Manchin about his moderate reputation in the Senate where he has voted with both Democrats and Republicans.
‘We have a lot of work ahead to get everyone to get COVID crushed and to get our little kids in school ready to learn. I’m looking forward to working with Republicans, Democrats, and even Senator Manchin,’ she said. ‘I’m teasing you. That’s a little Manchin joke.’
And Jill Biden thanked him and his wife Gayle for their friendship to the Bidens.
‘Senator Manchin, you know you’ve been a champion for West Virginia, and you’ve always found ways to bring people together, and your integrity and commitment to this state is steadfast. And Joe and I are so grateful to you and to Gayle for the friendship that we built over – I don’t even know how many years it’s been, but it’s been a long time. So thank you very much,’ she said.
Manchin, a moderate senator, is a key vote for Democrats in the 50-50 Senate. President Joe Biden will need his support on his two massive legislative packages – his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan – with its focus on infrastructure – and his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan with its focus on social programs.
He told reporters in West Virginia that ‘the president and I had a very very good meeting’ at the White House on Monday. He said that the amount of the infrastructure package was not his main issue.
‘We’re gonna find out what the needs are,’ he said.
First lady Jill Biden talks to a student who received her coronavirus vaccination Thursday
Jennifer Garner said two of her three children were getting vaccinated on Tuesday
Jill Biden celebrated being able to go maskless – ‘let’s have some fun,’ she said
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Communications Director Katherine Bedingfield laugh without protective face masks in the Rose Garden
President Biden exits the Oval Office to discuss new mask guidelines – without a face covering
Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden greet their staff after speaking on updated guidance on mask mandates, in the Rose Garden of the White House
Tears-NN strikes again: CNN host Alisyn Camerota chokes up on live TV over CDC news that Americans can finally ditch the masks
CNN host Alisyn Camerota teared up live on air after the CDC revealed that vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks, saying: ‘It feels a little bit like it’s over’.
The emotional reaction came after the CDC’s Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky issued new guidance on Thursday that Americans can finally stop wearing masks indoors and outdoors.
Speaking to CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta, Camerota – who was joined by co-host Victor Blackwell – said she wanted to ‘take a moment’ after the announcement as she reminisced on how, at one point, they didn’t know if they would survive.
‘I found myself welling up when Dr Walensky was talking,’ she said.
‘You and I talked every morning during the past year about how many more Americans were going to die, what’s going to happen, were we going to make it to the vaccine, were we all going to survive.’
CNN host Alisyn Camerota dramatically teared up live on air while speaking to Dr Sanjay Gupta on Thursday after the CDC revealed that vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks
Camerota went on to say that ‘580,000 Americans didn’t make it to this day.’
She then held up her mask, saying: ‘This day where they said we can throw these away that we’ve all been clinging to.
‘We just didn’t know when this day would come. It feels a little bit like it’s over, doesn’t it?’
Dr Gupta then chimed in, saying: ‘It’s a really important day.
‘As hard as it was to do the science-based things at the beginning, we should not make the mistake of stopping doing things that are no longer necessary.
‘We’ve got to follow the science, whatever direction it takes us.’
Garner grew up in Charleston and she has previously testified before Congress in support of education programs for preschoolers in poverty.
The actress was originally scheduled to travel with Dr. Biden to Alabama last month, to promote the administration’s COVID relief efforts for early childhood education, but that trip was scrapped because of severe weather.
Biden and Garner have also worked together as board members on the Save the Children charity organization.
Garner campaigned for Joe Biden in last year’s election, hosting an event on Instagram with Jill Biden.
Jennifer Garner and Jill Biden have worked together on the board for Save the children – above Dr. Biden, Bvlgari Group CEO Jean-Christophe Babin, Joe Biden, and Garner attend the 5th Annual Save the Children Illumination Gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 18, 2017 in New York City
Jennifer Garner also has testified before Congress on education issues – above she speaks about high-quality, early-childhood education at a event on Capitol Hill last year
President Biden is also wooing moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. He hosted both Sinema and Manchin at the White House for separate meetings this week.
Manchin told reporters his hour-long conversation with the president was ‘encompassing.’
‘We talked about everything, we really did. It was a great conversation,’ he said.
Given the evenly split Senate, Biden can’t afford to lose a single Democratic vote on his massive spending packages. By meeting with Manchin and Sinema, he’s giving them a voice and a chance to influence what ends up in the final legislative package.
Fully vaccinated Americans can officially ditch their masks INDOORS: CDC says it’s safe for people who have had all their shots to go maskless anywhere except inside crowded places like planes and hospitals
Fully-vaccinated Americans can finally stop wearing their masks almost anywhere – indoors our outdoors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday.
The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but could ease restrictions for reopening workplaces and schools. People who are fully vaccinated but immunocompromised people may still be advised by their doctors to keep masking.
But the CDC also no longer recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds.
‘Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in activities indoors or outdoors, large or small, without physical distancing,’ announced CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky during a Friday White House press briefing.
‘If you are fully vaccinated you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some semblance of normalcy.
‘This is an exciting and powerful moment.’
CDC’s announcement comes as the agency and the Biden administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people – people who are two weeks past their last required COVID-19 vaccine dose – in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shot.
In a seemingly prescient moment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi removed her mask in public for the first time in months on Thursday during her weekly Capitol Hill press conference.
She took off her face covering once she got to the podium, and cited new House rules that require all members to wear masks on the floor – unless they are speaking.
The CDC’s new guidance also comes two weeks after the agency recommended that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks indoors in all settings and outdoors in large crowds – advice that White House adviser Dr Anthony Fauci only just publicly endorsed earlier on Thursday.
In that update, the CDC also exaggerated the risk of Covid transmission outdoors as accounting for less than 10 percent of cases when the figure is likely less than one percent, experts say.
That’s sown distrust and confusion, fueling claims that the CDC has been keeping mask guidelines in places longer than it needs to.
Things came to a head earlier this week, as Republican lawmakers grilled CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky over masking guidelines, claiming that the agency had let them drag on too long.
To-date, more than 117 million Americans are fully vaccinated, accounting for just over a third of the U.S. population, and 45 percent of adults have had at least one dose. The CDC also recommended on Wednesday that eligibility to get Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine be expanded to children as young as 12.
Real-world data, mostly gathered in hospitals where CDC is expected to still advise masking – suggests that vaccination cuts the risk of infection by some 97 percent among staff who primarily interacted indoors. But that data was gathered while guidelines recommended masks were still in place, so how the virus could spread among vaccinated, unmasked people indoors remains unknown.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi took off her mask in public for the first time in months during her Thursday press conference, citing new House Rules requiring members to wear masks on the floor unless they are speaking (left). The CDC is expected to update its guidelines for the public to say that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors – except in crowded settings like planes and buses. The CDC is expected to say on Thursday that people can stop wearing masks indoors. It comes after Republican lawmakers blasted CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky (right) over the agency’s mask guidelines on Tuesday
IN THE GREEN: CDC’s updated infographics shows that fully vaccinated Americans can safely do just about anything without wearing a mask
The chance to ditch the mask ‘could only happen because of the work of so many who made sure we had the rapid administration of three safe, effective vaccines,’ said Dr Walensky.
‘It could also only happen because we had an adequate supply of those vaccines for everyone 12 years and older in this country.’
Her remarks come less than 24 hours after the CDC recommended that states start giving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12. The FDA on Monday expanded emergency use authorization for the shot to children between 12 and 15 (it was previously available to those 16 and older).
Health officials have welcomed the expansion, but critics have noted that the U.S. is vaccinating children against a virus that is only fatal to less than one percent of kids who get it before sharing vaccines with poorer nations where more at-risk adults and health care workers remain unvaccinated, such as India.
Despite her optimism and enthusiasm for the speed of the U.S. vaccine rollout, Dr Walensky cautioned that there is not guarantee that the U.S. is fully past the crisis.
The updated guidance is expected to still recommend that fully vaccinated Americans wear masks in certain crowded settings, like airplanes (pictured, file) and buses. The federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) renewed its mask requirement for all public mass transit – including airplanes and train stations – on April 30
‘This past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse, there is always a chance we may need to make changes to these recommendations, but we know that the more people are vaccinated, the less cases we will have and the less chance of a new spike or additional variants emerging.’
Republican lawmakers on Tuesday charged that health guidelines have unnecessarily remained in place even as more and more Americans get vaccinated.
‘I always considered the CDC to be the gold standard. I don’t anymore,’ Maine Senator Susan Collins said during a Capitol Hill hearing on the pandemic response Tuesday.
Collins, who was reelected to her fifth term in November, told Walensky that she ‘used to have the utmost respect for the guidance from the CDC’ but now feels it has issued ‘conflicting, confusing guidance’ that contradicts health officials.
‘I used to have the utmost respect for the guidance from the CDC. I always considered the CDC to be the gold standard. I don’t anymore,’ she lectured the agency head.
She accused the agency – whose leaders repeatedly said they operate based on the science and the available data – of ‘exaggerating’ the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
‘So, here we have unnecessary barriers to reopening schools, exaggerating the risks of outdoor transmission, and unworkable restrictions on summer camps. Why does this matter?’ Collins continued. ‘It matters because it undermines public confidence in your recommendation, in the recommendations that do make sense, in the recommendations that Americans should be following.’
The attack by Collins, an influential senator who sometimes cooperates with Democrats, came as her state’s Democratic governor joined a zoom call with President Joe Biden to talk about vaccine distribution and the pandemic.
At one point, Maine Gov. Janet Mills joked about people in her state responded to the CDC’s initially recommended 6-foot social distancing guidance. ‘Some people asked, why so close?’ she quipped.
Walensky – who in March warned about a feeling of ‘impending doom’ as U.S. infections rose – spoke with optimism about vaccines approved for young people aged 12-15 – even appearing to suggest they lobby their parents for the shot.
She made the statement when asked about government approval to extend the emergency use authorization for Pfizer for children aged 12-15.
‘I recognize some parents want to see how it goes, but I am encouraging all children to be vaccinated,’ she said during the hearing. ‘And I am also encouraging children to ask for the vaccine.’
‘I have a 16-year-old and I continue he wanted to get the vaccine. He wants his life back,’ she said.
Officials are eyeing young people as a cohort that can help boost the nation’s overall vaccine rates – with a substantial number of adults still saying they aren’t sure they want to get the shots.