WH COVID Coordinator: In Time, CDC 'Will Allow Vaccinated People More...Privileges to Take Off That Mask'

By Susan Jones | May 10, 2021 | 4:11am EDT
A man without a mask walks past signs that read "protect yourself, protect those around you, wear a mask and get vaccinated when you can" in Los Angeles on April 22, 2021. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
A man without a mask walks past signs that read "protect yourself, protect those around you, wear a mask and get vaccinated when you can" in Los Angeles on April 22, 2021. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - "I would say we are turning the corner" on the coronavirus pandemic, White House COVID response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said on Sunday. But he made it clear that the Biden administration will not be satisfied until 70 percent of Americans are vaccinated.

In the meantime, keep your mask handy until the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows you the "privilege" of not wearing one:

"Well, I think everyone is tired, and wearing a mask is -- it can be a pain," Zients told CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper.

"But we're getting there. And the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter and brighter. Let's keep up our guard. Let's follow the CDC guidance. And the CDC guidance across time will allow vaccinated people more and more privileges to take off that mask."

Tapper pushed back on the CDC guidance, noting that the pace of vaccinations is slowing down and suggesting that people may be wondering why they still have to wear a mask if the vaccines really do work.

"Is it really necessary for a fully vaccinated person to wear a mask at a limited indoor gathering, if everyone there is vaccinated?" Tapper asked Zients:

"Well, the CDC has given guidance that, when you're with family and friends that are vaccinated in small groups, you don't need a mask," Zients replied.

"So, why does President Biden, in a room full of vaccinated journalists, with everybody in that room vaccinated, why does he need to wear a mask?" Tapper asked.

"The president is going to continue to follow the CDC guidance," Zients said:

We -- it's just a matter of a few weeks ago when all states made vaccines eligible for all Americans. So, there still are Americans who want to get vaccinated who may just have their first shot and are waiting for the for their second shot, or who haven't had an opportunity yet to get their first shot.

And we want those folks to get vaccinated. And the July 4 deadline is a really good -- or goal -- is a really good goal that the president has set of 70 percent of all Americans with at least their first shot by July 4.

Zients said President Biden is "going to rely on science and facts."

"The CDC has, across the last several weeks, given guidance for vaccinated people to do indoor gatherings with other vaccinated people, as I talked about earlier, to not wear masks outside, except when you're in a very crowded place.

“And we look forward to further guidance from the CDC about what the advantages are of being vaccinated. What is clear is, anyone who's not vaccinated should get vaccinated."

Tapper agreed. "But," Tapper told Zients, "I think one of the reasons why journalists are annoyingly harping on this, and some health experts are, is because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and President Biden being able to take off his mask in a room full of journalists and White House staffers, all of whom are fully vaccinated, is a demonstration that the vaccines work.

"You and I are both vaccinated," Tapper continued, "and you and I are in a room together talking, and I have no fear that I'm going to get the virus from you, and I assume vice versa. And I think the concern is that, by being overly cautious, the signal is going out to the public that there isn't necessarily a light at the end of the tunnel. Do you understand why people are--"

"Well, I think everyone is tired, and wearing a mask is -- it can be a pain," Zients interrupted.

"But we're getting there. And the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter and brighter. Let's keep up our guard. Let's follow the CDC guidance. And the CDC guidance across time will allow vaccinated people more and more privileges to take off that mask."

Zients said Americans "all want to get back to a normal lifestyle."

"I think we're on the path to do that," he continued. "But stay disciplined. And let's take advantage of the new privileges of being vaccinated and not wearing mask outdoors, for example, unless you're in a crowded place.

"And as we all move toward that 70 percent goal, there will be more and more advantages to being vaccinated. And if you're not vaccinated, you're not protected."

As of Sunday, Zients said, 58 percent of adult Americans have had at least one shot; and around 110 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

Zients indicated that the 70 percent number is based on the experience in Israel:  "Look, we don't know exactly what herd immunity is. And that's not an area that I know much about. I look to Dr. Fauci and the other medical experts," Zients said.

"What the experts do say is reaching 70 percent will continue to -- a pattern of decreasing cases, hospitalizations, and deaths and take us down to a sustainable low level. If we look to Israel, where they have achieved that level of vaccination, their deaths, hospitalizations are much, much lower than they were. And they're at a very low, sustainable level."

Zients said access to vaccines and boosting confidence in them is "really important" at this stage.

But wear your mask...

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