“At businesses, whether indoors or outdoors, masks are still required to be worn,” said Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer Thursday afternoon. Just minutes before, President Joe Biden delivered a different message.
“I want to be clear about what the CDC is saying and what the CDC is not saying,” Biden said during a speech marking the announcement. “The CDC is saying they have concluded that fully-vaccinated people are at a very, very low risk of getting Covid-19. Therefore, if you’ve been fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. Let me repeat: If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask.”
Biden emphasized, “This recommendation holds true whether you are inside or outside.”
But the CDC hedged its announcement just hours before.
The CDC tweeted, “If you are fully vaccinated against #COVID19, you can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, incl. local business and workplace guidance.”
On further inspection, the new CDC guidance does not completely drop mask recommendations even for fully-vaccinated people. Face coverings are still recommended in some settings — such as aboard planes and buses or in crowded settings such as hospitals.
Members of the media began pointing out the contradiction.
Religion News Service National Reporter Jack Jenkins retweeted video of Biden’s speech with the following analysis: “According to the CDC, Biden’s statement here isn’t 100% correct — there are still instances where the agency still recommends wearing masks even if vaccinated (e.g., on public transport, in airports, in nursing homes, etc).”
Note: According to the CDC, Biden’s statement here isn’t 100% correct — there are still instances where the agency still recommends wearing masks even if vaccinated (e.g., on public transport, in airports, in nursing homes, etc). https://t.co/ZfPsWssuGE
— Jack Jenkins (@jackmjenkins) May 13, 2021
Jenkins was right, and the discrepancy sent ripples across the nation.
Earlier in the week, California Governor Gavin Newsom was strident in his assurance that masks were going away for fully-vaccinated residents.
On Tuesday, Newsom was asked by a reporter if there would be a mask mandate after June 15. The usually-loquacious Newsom said quickly, “No.” He then enumerated a few rare circumstances where masks would still be needed.
“Only in those massively large [indoor] settings where people from around the world are convening & people are mixing in real dense spaces. Otherwise…no mandates,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Governor seemed to remove the “massively large” from his indoor prohibition, telling reporters, “For indoor activities we still will have, likely, some mask mandates. But the hope is those will be lifted sooner rather than later.”
In Los Angeles on Thursday, Ferrer was asked repeatedly on a call with reporters whether the CDC guidance ended all mask requirements for fully-vaccinated people.
“I think there’s a lot more that got said in the documents that got issued today,” she said. “We’ll be talking it under advisement. This was not pre-released to local health departments.”
Ferrer noted that local health officials can be more strict that state and federal guidelines. She also said that the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, CalOSHA, will not even meet until next week to consider any changes.
“Once the [unintelligible] board meets next week we will hear more. We will be aligning with CalOSHA,” said Ferrer. One suggestion, she said, was not to have everyone wear masks, but only those who are unvaccinated.
“It may be easier to ask that person to mask and keep their distance than asking everyone to mask and keep their distance,” said Ferrer.
Until the new rules are issued, reminded the L.A. Public Health Director, “At businesses, whether indoors or outdoors, masks are still required to be worn…Until there’s been a change in that, it’s really important that we not jump the gun and create an unintended consequence. Until that change, all workplaces would be out of compliance and subject to fines.”