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In deliberate contrast to the freewheeling Trump White House, President Biden has been meticulous about wearing a mask. Now he should be equally deliberate about ditching it.
Biden's careful masking made sense when he first took office. Vaccine distribution was only underway for those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Biden himself received his second shot in mid-January, but the average person he encountered, including within the White House, hadn't been vaccinated yet. Modeling responsible behavior then meant wearing a mask in most indoor settings.
The situation is radically different now. Hundreds of White House staff received their first vaccine dose within a week of Biden's inauguration, and the administration made plans to vaccinate all in-person staff by early March. In an average day at the office, the president and everyone he meets is vaccinated, which — were he following current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance — should mean no masks.
It's also awful public health messaging. Biden's answer when directly confronted on the issue in a press conference Friday was that "when we're inside, it's still good policy to wear a mask." But that's not true. It rejects CDC guidance and doesn't communicate respect for scientific achievement. Masks are needless in a room of vaccinated people. That's literally the point (and selling point) of vaccines, and when Biden wears a mask he doesn't need, a plausible subtext is that he doesn't fully trust his vaccine to protect him. This is exactly the wrong message to send.
If Biden wants to convince hesitant Americans to get the vaccine, he should remind them what normalcy looks like.
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