Amid confusion over COVID-19 mitigation guidelines for people who have been vaccinated, Joe Biden said in an interview Friday with NBC’s “Today” that it’s a “patriotic responsibility” for vaccinated people to wear a mask, even outdoors.
The president, who was at a distance of about 10 feet from NBC host Craig Melvin, said that if they were sitting closer together, “I’d have my mask on and I’d like you to have a mask even though we’ve both been vaccinated.”
Biden said vaccinated people should wear a mask so they don’t spread the virus to their families, despite studies indicating the shots prevent transmission as well as infection. And further, the risk of transmission outdoors, vaccinated or unvaccinated, is miniscule.
“It’s a patriotic responsibility for God’s sake,” Biden said. “It’s making sure that your wife, your children if in fact they haven’t been vaccinated, making sure that they’re not going to get sick.”
Biden was asked if he would stop wearing a mask outdoors in light of new Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
“Sure, I mean, but what I’m going to do though because the likelihood of my being able to be outside and people not come up to me is not very high so it’s like look, you and I took our masks off when I came in. Because look at the distance we are,” Biden said.
However, an MIT study reported this week found the key issue is not the distance, it’s the amount of time spend with an infected person and whether or not it’s indoors or outside. The risk of being exposed to COVID-19 indoors can be as great at 60 feet as it is at 6 feet in a room where the air is mixed, the study found.
MIT professor Martin Z. Bazant, who teaches chemical engineering and applied mathematics, said the important variable CDC and World Health Organization guidelines have overlooked is the amount of time spent indoors.
The longer someone is inside with an infected person, the greater the chance of transmission, he said.
The study did not specifically look at outdoor transmission, but Bazant said social distancing makes little sense outdoors since warmer air that’s exhaled tends to rise and any infected air would be swept away by the wind.
See Biden’s comments on mask-wearing in ‘Today’ interview:
The CDC’s new guidelines, released Tuesday, advise vaccinated people to continue wearing masks for nearly every activity but dining at an outdoor restaurant with multiple households and attending a small outdoor gathering. Otherwise, according to a multi-colored chart titled “Choosing Safer Activities,” there is little distinction between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.
A section on the CDC website titled “Guiding Principles for Fully Vaccinated People” states vaccinated people should be “mindful of the very low potential risk” of transmitting the virus if they become infected.
The CDC has claimed the vaccines are 95% effective.
“Although the risk of COVID-19 infection may be minimal to the fully vaccinated person themselves,” the CDC states, “vaccinated persons should be mindful of the very low potential risk of transmitting the virus to others if they become infected, especially if they are visiting with unvaccinated people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or visiting with unvaccinated people who have people at increased risk for severe disease in their own households.”
Real-world studies in Israel and the U.K. indicate that COVID-19 vaccines cut down the risk of transmission, the Washington Post reported. A federally funded study is underway at 21 college campuses that will test how well Moderna’s COVID-19 shot prevents vaccinated people from spreading the coronavirus,
Meanwhile, Minnesota health officials have urged people who already have had COVID-19 to get vaccinated immediately.
“They do not have durable protection from the disease,” and natural immunity lasts “probably like 90 days,” Minnesota Health said via Twitter
However, that claim conflicts with a study published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health finding the immune systems of more than 95% of people who recovered from COVID-19 had “durable memories of the virus up to eight months after infection.”
‘You’re telling us …’
After the Centers for Disease Control announced new masking guidelines Tuesday that continue to restrict people who have had the COVID-19 shots, CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked White House coronavirus senior adviser Andy Slavitt to explain why people who get vaccinated can’t resume their “normal lives.”
Slavitt dodged the question, despite Cuomo asking four times.
“The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah and NBC “Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie joined Cuomo in expressing frustration.
“You’re telling us these new vaccines are 95% effective and will stop coronavirus, but we still can’t do anything without a mask on anyway?
Wednesday morning on NBC’s “Today,” co-host Savannah Guthrie observed to Biden’s top health adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, that there seems to be a “disconnect” in the federal government’s mask policy.
She asked Fauci when children, who have been shown to be at very low risk of infection and transmission, will be able to play without masks.