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Confusion over masks sparks new political confrontation

Senior White House adviser Anita Dunn on Sunday defended President Joe Biden for his continued use of a mask outside – even though the practice appears to conflict with new relaxed administrative guidelines for fully vaccinated citizens .

In comments that did not necessarily clarify the situation, Dunn told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that “extra precautions” were being taken for the president and that wearing the mask was “an issue. usual ”.

Republicans, seeking to reduce public approval for Biden’s handling of the pandemic, have previously accused him of instigating stigma against people who refuse to wear masks, including many conservatives. The Republican National Committee, for example, criticized Biden for “breaking” advice from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the issue has become one of the latest cultural war hotspots for TV hosts. right-wing talk shows.

Republicans are using the mask controversy to bolster their larger narrative that Biden and the Democrats are too politically correct and are using government power to infringe on Americans’ freedoms – a vanity that works for them on gun taxes. fire and public health for climate change.

The exchanges suggest that the safe dismantling of the Covid-19 precautions network will prove to be as controversial as their implementation was, proving that little is safe from politicization in a nation foreign to the ideology.

Debates between political rivals and in the medical community and conversations between citizens about how to get out of a year of isolation are almost certainly just the first in a series of arguments about how people get vaccinated and not vaccinated may behave. The coming months are likely to see a wave of controversy, especially in the hospitality industry, cruise ships, education, aviation and those sparked by the massive return to work.

It’s not just political factions that are using the issue for partisan ends – although this comes as Covid-19 restrictions continue to straddle the uniquely American tension between individual freedom and the reach of government. Medical experts are engaging in an intense debate over whether the CDC is being overly cautious in how it loosens mask guidelines or whether it is offering conflicting and confusing advice to the public.

This medical debate is giving way to increasingly intense political debate as families struggle to assess their risks, turn to leaders for advice, and attempt to decide whether and how to travel, take vacations and socialize in the city. surprisingly intimidating process of resuming their pre-pandemic activities.

“ A patriotic responsibility ”

Complications of exiting the pandemic – a process no one currently in positions of power has ever experienced – is why Biden’s success in getting more than 100 million Americans fully immunized does not mean Covid-19 is no longer perilous or is not. less politically treacherous for the White House.

The latest mask-wearing debate – a practice former President Donald Trump unnecessarily politicized much during his negligent handling of the pandemic – was sparked by the president himself. He wore a mask as he walked over to a microphone during an announcement outside the White House last week announcing new mask practices. Then he told NBC News in an interview that it was a “patriotic responsibility” for those vaccinated to continue to do so. His comment came despite evidence that vaccines are very effective and that Covid-19 is much less transmissible outdoors than in crowded and poorly ventilated indoor environments.
The president’s remarks followed new guidelines from the CDC last week, which mean fully vaccinated people can now unmask at small outdoor gatherings or when dining out with friends from multiple households. Unvaccinated people should always cover their face.

The advice summed up the conundrum that might be impossible to solve in a country where many people are now fully vaccinated – but millions more are refusing to do so at a time when the virus is still widely circulating.

Scientists and administration officials need to strike a balance in urging reluctant Americans to get vaccinated – talking about the restored freedoms it could bring – while not giving the impression that everyone should tear their mask off. Many Americans, meanwhile, in the first light of summer, appear to be taking matters into their own hands with a mask wearing anecdotally in some East Coast towns this weekend.

After months of caution and adherence to restrictions – after failing to do so cost thousands of lives under Trump – Biden now appears to be risking the political price for being too cautious, even though his initial warning has come out proven successful.

Scientists are not united on masks either

The political debate over masks is reflected in the medical community.

Dr Jonathan Reiner, renowned cardiac surgeon and professor at George Washington University, said the CDC had been “too careful”.

“They have been both very knowledgeable since the arrival of the new administration and very cautious,” Reiner told CNN’s “Inside Politics” Sunday.

Reiner said that while he was adamant about wearing the mask for the first 12 months of the pandemic, he was certain that a person who has been fully vaccinated is immune to Covid-19, no longer needs to hide in public and may do the same indoors. .

Confusion over masks sparks new political confrontation

“It’s time for the CDC to start adopting this kind of forked strategy and maybe give the unvaccinated a glimpse of what life can be like if they get vaccinated,” he said.

Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health, said that with a daily average of new Covid-19 cases still above 50,000 and with many adults refusing to be vaccinated, government experts will continue to be cautious.

“The CDC will be reluctant to withdraw the interior mask warrants and I think that’s true,” Jha said on CBS’s “Face the Nation”.

“It’s a dangerous enough time not to be vaccinated, but what (the) CDC is reporting is that if you are fully vaccinated, freedoms just become safer and more secure for people.”

GOP senator warns of ‘shameful’ vaccine resistance

While public health experts warn that maximizing vaccinations is vital to create the collective immunity needed to stop the spread of Covid-19, some 44% of Republicans said in a CNN poll last week that they would not try not to get vaccinated.

And a Republican, Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas, warned the administration this weekend against any attempt to pressure or stigmatize this group.

“This is America. Everyone has an individual right. I think one of the things we have to be careful of is not to shame people, talk to them or oppose them. lifestyle, ”Marshall told CNN’s Pamela Brown in“ Newsroom ”on Saturday.

Marshall, who is also a doctor, works to persuade people that vaccines are the best way to get people back to normalcy quickly. But he argued that many Americans were alienated by the confusion over the masks.

“They were told they don’t need a mask. They need a mask. They were told that even if you have a vaccine you have to continue to wear the mask,” Marshall said.

But Dunn told Tapper that the best way to allay those worries and get rid of the masks for good is to get the shot.

“People should follow the CDC’s guidelines, and they should enjoy the vaccine, get the full shot and take that mask off, especially as the weather gets so nice and we all want to be outside,” Dunn said.

“It’s a lot more fun to take that walk outside without a mask,” she said.


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