President Biden Says This Major COVID Mandate Is Coming Soon
The move comes as the Delta variant fuels new outbreaks across the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the biggest stride towards returning to normal life in May when it announced that fully vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks or practice social distancing in public. But since then, the trajectory of the pandemic has changed as new infections continue to increase across the U.S.—especially among the unvaccinated. The fresh set of outbreaks has ignited a debate about the appropriate course of action to keep the public safe on the local level, with some cities even reviving mask requirements. But at a town hall hosted by CNN on July 21, President Joe Biden said that a major national COVID mandate would be coming soon to address the recent surge and protect a vulnerable part of the population. Read on to see what change you can expect to see in the next few weeks.
President Biden says a mask mandate is likely coming for unvaccinated school children under 12.
When responding to an attendee concerned for the safety of children returning to classrooms this fall, President Biden hinted that new guidance is coming from the nation's top infectious disease agency that would revive a mask mandate recommendation for the upcoming school year aimed at protecting students who can't yet get vaccinated. "The CDC is going to say that what you should do is, everyone under the age of 12 should probably be wearing masks in school," Biden said. "That's probably what's going to happen."
Biden then clarified that other students might also be subject to the same rules depending on whether or not they've received their doses of the Pfizer vaccine. "Those over the age of 12 who are able to get vaccinated—if you're vaccinated, you shouldn't wear a mask, if you aren't vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask," he said.
Vaccines may soon be approved for children under the age of 12.
Biden also announced that the coming months might also see young children under the age of 12 finally become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. "They're not promising me any specific date, but my expectation, talking to the scientists is that sometime, maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, you'll get a final approval" for vaccinating kids, he said.
But Biden emphasized that the decision was not being influenced in any way by his administration and that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC would be solely responsible for the call. "I do not tell any scientists what they should do. I do not interfere. They're trying to figure out whether or not there's a vaccination that affects one child at such-and-such an age and not another child," he explained.
The president also admitted that enforcing the mask mandate and verifying students' vaccination status might be difficult in some school settings. "It's going to get a little bit tight in terms of, well, are Mom or Dad being honest that Johnny did or did not get vaccinated? That's going to raise questions," Biden said. "It's a matter of community responsibility."
A panel of experts recently recommended that students should be wearing masks this coming school year.
The news comes just days after the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all students aged two or older should wear masks when returning to school this year, regardless of whether or not they've been vaccinated. The group also suggested that all teachers and staff wear masks, emphasizing that such safety protocols were needed to bring back in-person learning as soon as possible, NBC News reports.
"We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers—and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely," Sonja O'Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health, said in a statement. "Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking, and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone."
Biden urged all eligible Americans to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Besides addressing the topic of wearing a mask to school, Biden also took time to urge eligible Americans to go out and get their shots if they haven't done so already. "We have a pandemic for those who haven't gotten the vaccination—it's that basic, that simple," Biden said. "If you're vaccinated, you're not going to be hospitalized, you're not going to be in the IC unit, and you're not going to die."
But the president also pointed out that getting vaccinated was also an important step in protecting the overall population. "It's gigantically important that we all act like Americans who care about our fellow Americans," Biden said.