(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden on Thursday celebrated the federal government’s new guidance on mask-wearing as “a great milestone.”
“I think it’s a great milestone, a great day,” Biden said during remarks after walking out into the White House Rose Garden not wearing a mask. “It’s been made possible by the extraordinary success we’ve had in vaccinating so many Americans so quickly.”
Biden spoke shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance saying fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear a mask indoors or outdoors.
“It’s a good day for the country,” he said. “If you’ve been vaccinated, you don’t have to wear your mask and you can shake hands. You can even give each other a hug.”
Vice President Kamala Harris also appeared outdoors without a face covering.
The CDC announcement came as they were meeting with Republican senators in the Oval Office, and according to one senator in the meeting, the president and senators took off their masks midway through the meeting.
The agency had faced questions in recent days about whether it was moving too slowly to issue guidance permitting fully-vaccinated people to forgo masks in more instances, especially as more evidence showed how effective COVID-19 vaccines were at protecting people from becoming infected or seriously ill.
The CDC had previously said it was OK for fully vaccinated people to allow face coverings outdoors, unless they were in large gatherings.
The White House has repeatedly said it would follow the advice of government scientists.
Biden reiterated CDC guidance Thursday that said unvaccinated people should still wear a face covering in many situations.
He told ABC News’ Molly Nagle Thursday that the federal government would not mandate people wear masks.
“If you haven’t been vaccinated, wear your mask for your own protection and the protection of the people who are also — have not been vaccinated yet,” he said after his Rose Garden remarks. “It’s not an enforcement thing. We’re not going to go out and arrest people. But the fact of the matter is, I still believe the vast majority of the American people care about the safety of their neighbors and care about the safety of their families.”
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