On Thursday, President Joe Biden laid out the case for masking up and getting vaccinated. The very first point he made: If you get a vaccine, we wouldn’t need masks in the first place.
As Biden walked to the podium in the East Room of the White House, he removed his black fabric mask.
“Today, I want to talk to you about COVID-19,” Biden began. “In a significant part of the country, you wouldn’t have to take one of these off, you don’t have to put one on.
“Like in my home state of Delaware, where I live in New Castle County, where I was yesterday in Pennsylvania — because people got vaccinated,” he continued, shaking the mask for effect. “They got vaccinated.
“They don’t need a mask when the majority — the vast majority of people got vaccinated.”
Biden went on to note that “on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the CDC — announced its new mask recommendation in parts of the country where COVID cases are substantially high, where people didn’t get vaccinated — which they define as 50 new cases for every 100,000 people in a week.
“The CDC recommends you wear a mask when you’re in public and indoors, like work or in a grocery store. That’s true for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
“Why?” Biden continued. “Because even if you’ve been fully vaccinated and protected from severe illness from COVID-19, you could have the delta variant in your system and spread it to someone who isn’t vaccinated.
“We need to wear masks to protect each other and to stop the rapid spread of this virus as we work to get more people vaccinated. And I hope all Americans who live in areas with substantial or high case rates will follow the mask guidance that’s being laid down by the CDC. I certainly will. And I have — because this is one of those areas, in Washington. “
Unfortunately for Biden, he admitted in the first 30 seconds of his speech that he wasn’t necessarily following the new mask guidance. Furthermore, his bit about his home county in Delaware was truthful as far as it went — but that wasn’t very far, and not for very long.
And he proved, in a speech that was supposed to clarify the new mask guidance and how we could stop the spread of the delta variant, how little his administration seems to know.
First, that mask. As Biden said, “in a significant part of the country, you don’t have to put one on,” particularly if you’re vaccinated. The CDC, which brought back masking in revised guidance issued two days before the president spoke, had a slightly different take, but the seemingly slight difference was important.
“Fully vaccinated people might choose to mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated,” the guidance stated. (Emphasis added.)
“People who are at increased risk for severe disease include older adults and those who have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, overweight or obesity, and heart conditions.” (Emphasis again added.)
We hate to belabor a point we’ve been making for years on end now, but let’s belabor it: Joe Biden is old.
At 78, he’s already the country’s oldest president and he’s supposed to serve at least another three and a half years. In terms of a fully vaccinated person who might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission because he’s an older adult, particularly when he’s the most powerful individual in the free world, I’d say Joe Biden qualifies.
Even if he was in New Castle County, Delaware, where the good folks have been getting vaccinated — he still should have been masking under the CDC’s guidance, even if it wasn’t required of the general population.
And even if it was technically true, as of Thursday, that Biden didn’t have to wear a mask in New Castle County, it was also woefully disingenuous.
When Biden gave this speech, transmission in New Castle County (where Wilmington is the county seat) wasn’t defined as “substantially high” by the CDC’s guidelines, being a bit above 40 cases per 100,000 residents on the last day of available data. So, no, he would not have had to wear a mask had he been there. However, unless he was an idiot — or the people around him were idiots — he knew full well he would very soon have to, however.
This is a graph from the CDC’s website showing the 7-day moving average of cases per 100,000 residents in Biden’s home county between July 20 and July 29. In a space of nine days, from nearly zero, that number had shot up to over 40 cases per 100,000.
And here’s where we were on Monday, where the 7-day moving average had risen 75.17 cases per 100,000 people:
It’s what anyone with basic chart literacy could have predicted would have happened to delta variant cases. I hope, if you’re a resident of New Castle County, Delaware, you didn’t watch Biden’s speech on YouTube a few days after it was delivered. Your county has now moved from “moderate” transmission to “substantial” transmission, the second-highest level of transmission.
It’s not that your neighbors stopped getting the vaccine, mind you. In fact, as of Sunday, according to a CDC data tracker, New Castle County was still beating the national average for adults who’ve received at least one dose of the vaccine, 73.4 percent vs. 70 percent.
Yet, President Biden shook that mask in the air and declared it wouldn’t be necessary if we all just got the jab — even as he sought to clarify CDC guidance that said no such thing.
Did the president necessarily contradict the CDC? Perhaps not to the letter of the message, but certainly its spirit.
Most importantly, the incident provides yet another example of the mixed and muddled messages that have come from the federal government since the pandemic began (infamously including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the consistently inconsistent director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has flip-flopped on masks for 18 months now).
It’s clearly confusing when one government agency — the CDC — recommends that some people consider using masks regardless of circumstances, then another government entity — the president — says it’s fine to unmask when “the majority — the vast majority” are vaccinated.
It’s especially confusing when that president is in the class of people the CDC recommends masking up regardless.
And all of this, it should be noted, is coming at the same time that the CDC is stating in the very same guidance: “Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant.”
When Americans are being asked to believe too many contradictory messages from the government, it’s no wonder they have trouble believing anything at all.
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