As More Americans Get Vaccinated, Biden Administration Looks to Ease Covid-19 Restriction Guidance

WASHINGTON—Biden administration officials said Sunday that the U.S. is entering a new phase of the pandemic in which many vaccinated Americans can begin returning to normal activities and signaled that the federal government will further relax mask-wearing recommendations as more people get shots.

“I would say we are turning the corner,” Jeff Zients, President Biden’s Covid-19 coordinator, told CNN’s “State of the Union.” The administration said last week it is focused on helping hesitant and hard-to-reach Americans get shots, with a goal of having 70% of the adult population receive at least one dose by July 4.

Anthony Fauci,

the government’s top infectious disease expert, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will update guidelines for social distancing and mask usage “almost in real time” as the percentage of the public that is vaccinated increases. About 58% of the U.S. adult population has received at least one vaccine dose, according to the CDC.

“We do need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated,” he told ABC’s “The Week” on Sunday.

The CDC late last month eased coronavirus guidance, saying that people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 don’t need to wear face masks when walking, hiking, biking, running alone or gathering in small groups outside. The CDC has also said that fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with others who are also fully vaccinated without taking extra precautions.

Some public-health experts and Republicans have urged the Biden administration to further ease restrictions to incentivize more people to get vaccinated. “I think we should start lifting these restrictions as aggressively as we put them in,” Scott Gottlieb, the Trump administration’s Food and Drug Administration chief, told CNBC last week.

Despite the CDC’s guidelines, President Biden has continued to wear a mask during many public events, even though those around him are vaccinated. “Why am I wearing a mask? Because when we’re inside, it’s still good policy to wear a mask,” Mr. Biden told reporters last week.

Asked about the president’s mask usage, Mr. Zients said, “The president is going to continue to follow the CDC guidance.”

He said the U.S. is preparing for the possibility that booster shots may be necessary to maintain immunity to the virus. “If boosters are necessary, we’ll certainly be ready, as we have been for all contingencies, and we’ll have sufficient supply,” Mr. Zients said.

Dr. Fauci said it is possible that members of the public will decide to wear masks on a seasonal basis in the coming years to protect themselves from disease during the winter.

“I think people have gotten used to the fact that wearing masks clearly, if you look at the data, diminishes respiratory diseases,” Dr. Fauci said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He said, “It is conceivable that as we go on, a year or two or more from now, that during certain seasonal periods when you have respiratory-borne viruses like the flu, people might actually elect to wear masks.”

And he said it is likely that the U.S. death toll from the virus is higher than the official count. More than 581,500 people have died in the U.S. as a result of the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Asked about a recent study that projected that the U.S. death toll may actually be about 900,000, Dr. Fauci said, “I think there’s no doubt that we are and have been undercounting.” He added of the 900,000 figure, “That’s a bit more than I would have thought the undercounting was.”

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Source: WSJ – US News

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