Jen Psaki pressed on timing of White House dropping mask mandate: ‘What changed in the science?’

Hemmer presses Psaki on changing mask guidance for the White House: ‘What changed?’

Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino speak with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the shift in mask guidance and what Biden could discuss in his State of the Union address.

Co-host Bill Hemmer pressed White House press secretary Jen Psaki Thursday during an extensive interview on “America’s Newsroom,” asking why the White House dropped its indoor mask mandate for vaccinated individuals ahead of President Biden’s State of the Union address.

“What changed in the science yesterday, Monday, as opposed to a week ago Monday?” asked Hemmer. 

“It wasn’t actually yesterday, Bill. What the CDC did is they put out guidance last Friday that identified recommendations depending on what the hospitalization rates are in your part of the country,” responded Psaki.  

Psaki referenced updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which drastically eased its recommendations for mask-wearing across the country. According to the new guidance, Americans who are in an area of “low” or “medium” risk for COVID-19 transmission do not need to wear masks. This model means that over 70% of Americans can now go maskless. This includes Washington D.C., where an indoor mask mandate from Mayor Muriel Bowser expired Tuesday.

“The recommendation is not to wear masks, so we’re not wearing masks in the White House, the president’s not going to wear a mask tonight. But it’s different depending on the part of the country,” added Psaki.

The Biden administration and Democrat-led states have come under criticism from those who argue loosening COVID restrictions has been based more on political calculations than science.

The White House’s decision comes less than 24 hours before Biden’s State of the Union address. In a follow-up question, Psaki was asked how the president can convince Americans that he has helped to improve their lives over the past year.

A February Fox News poll found only 18% said Biden’s actions on inflation are helping the country. 44% said his actions were hurting.

Psaki noted that the State of the Union is a “huge opportunity” for Biden, who will spend much of his time discussing the conflict in Ukraine as well as his efforts to “lead the world” in standing up to autocratic leaders and the “horrific” actions of Vladimir Putin. 

President Joe Biden removes his protective face mask before speaking during a meeting with the Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, in Washington. 
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“People will also hear from him, for a great deal of the speech, his plan, not only the progress we’ve made, we’ve made a lot of economic progress, but his commitment to addressing prices, addressing cost, and addressing inflation,” Psaki added. 

Earlier in the interview, Dana Perino and Hemmer went over the Biden administration’s response to the crisis in Ukraine as it relates to energy and asked Psaki about the moves the White House is still considering as the Russian assault continues. 

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