As even Dem states ease, Biden begins rethinking COVID rules

As even Dem states ease, Biden begins rethinking COVID rules


“We are working on that guidance,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “As we’ve been encouraged by the current trends, we are not there yet.”

The White House offered no timetable for the review or an indication of what it will recommend. Some critics say that’s not good enough.

“The tragic thing is that these are governors that would probably have followed the White House’s guidance,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner. “They wanted CDC input and asked for it, but without a clear timeline, at some point they had to decide that they couldn’t wait any more. The fault is not theirs, but the CDC’s and by extension, President Biden’s, which, with each passing day, is making itself less and less relevant.”

Biden’s hesitance is driven in part by the sting of his fleeting “declaration of independence” from the virus last summer, which proved premature in the face of the delta and then omicron strains. Now, though, cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 have dropped markedly since they peaked earlier this year amid the spread of the highly-transmissible omicron variant, and the vast majority of Americans are protected against the virus by effective vaccines and boosters.

Asked whether Biden appears to be out of touch with the country, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended his caution. “As a federal government we have the responsibility to rely on data on science, on the medical experts,” she said.

“That doesn’t move at the speed of politics, it moves at the speed of data,” she added. Asked whether Americans should follow less-restrictive state or local rules or the stricter federal guidance, she repeated the White House’s daily counsel: “We would advise any American to follow the CDC guidelines.”

The CDC continues to recommend indoor mask wearing in places of “substantial or high transmission” of the virus, which as of Wednesday was all of the U.S. but 14 rural counties.

State and local leaders, nevertheless, have announced plans to ease virus restrictions in the coming weeks as omicron cases fall, citing the protections offered by vaccines as well as the increased availability of at-home testing kits and therapeutics for those who do catch the virus. Many of the restrictions eased last year, only to be reinstated as omicron swept the country.


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