JOE Biden emerged from the White House maskless on Thursday, hours after the CDC announced vaccinated Americans no longer needed to wear face coverings in most situations.
Biden, who for weeks has been criticized over his mixed messaging over mask-wearing, celebrated the new guidance as a "great milestone."
"This is a great day for America," Biden said. "This has been made possible by the incredible success we've had by vaccinating so many Americans so quickly."
To date, Biden said his administration has given out 250 million shots in just the 114 days since he took office.
"And we're seeing the results," Biden said, adding that cases are down in 49 of the 50 US states, and deaths are down 80 percent – the lowest they've been since April 2020.
"As the virus tragically ravages in other countries, as other nations – even wealthy nations – are marred by the slow rollout of vaccines and other measures – as a result, things are very different here.
"And remember – it is never, ever, ever a good bet to bet against the American people," Biden growled from the Rose Garden.
Vice President Kamala Harris also appeared alongside Biden and opted not to wear a mask.
Biden urged Americans to be "patient with one another", as it may take some longer than others to re-adjust to pre-pandemic normalcy.
"You know, some may say, 'I just feel more comfortable continuing to wear a mask.' They may feel that way … please treat them with kindness and respect," Biden urged.
The president also said the government wouldn't start enforcing mask wearing for the unvaccinated.
"We're not going to go out and arrest people…I still believe the vast majority of the American people care about the safety of their neighbors and care about the safety of their families."
Biden's press conference came just hours after the CDC announced that vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, except for when on public transport, in hospitals, or gathered in large groups outdoors.
The new guidance means that two weeks after receiving a Covid vaccine, Americans can safely resume life with limited restrictions.
"If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic," the CDC said in a statement.
"The science is clear: if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic."
The guidelines still call for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings such as buses, trains, planes, prisons, and homeless shelters.
Masks will also still be required in healthcare settings.
However, it would ease restrictions for reopening workplaces and schools.
Americans were advised that they will still need to follow regulations implemented by different local businesses and in various workplaces.
Those who come into contact with someone with Covid will not need to social distance or quarantine unless they also begin to show symptoms.
White House staff were reportedly emailed after the announcement and told they no longer need to wear a mask on the grounds if they are vaccinated.
First Lady Jill Biden was spotted without her mask shortly afterwards.
She visited a vaccination clinic for students in Charleston, West Virginia, with actress Jennifer Garner.
The CDC had been criticized for its slow pace in rolling back the mask regulations, even as states began easing restrictions as vaccine distribution ramped up.
"Too little too late from the CDC," Trump's former White House Chief of Staff tweeted.
"The science has always been clear vaccinated people are protected, but the CDC spent months pretending otherwise—doing untold damage to small businesses, churches, children in school, and more.
"They played politics," he claimed.
Senator Ted Cruz was also critical of President Biden and VP Kamala Harris, though said it was "about damn time" masks rules were relaxed.
"I've gotta say, I think Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been playing politics with Covid-19. And they've been playing politics with keeping schools shut down – and the science is absolutely clear that kids should be in school in person today," he said.
Cruz also accused the President and Vice President of both "playing politics on masks."
To him, Cruz said it never made any sense to continue wearing a mask when fully vaccinated, but "Biden and Harris kept saying wear a mask, wear a mask, wear a mask."
He said he believe's the White House's stance "put people off getting vaccinated".
On Thursday, the CDC cited three studies – one from Israel and two from the US – that show the Covid vaccine protects against the spread.
It advised those who have not yet been vaccinated to do so immediately and urged those who are vaccinated but develop Covid symptoms to wear masks again and immediately get tested.
The CDC also issued guidance on travel for vaccinated Americans.
No test or quaratine will be required for vaccinated people traveling within the US.
If traveling internationally, a test will only be needed if the destination country requires it.
A negative test will need to be shown before boarding to return to the US.
There is no longer a need to quarantine on returning to the US but it is advised to get a Covid test three to five days after international travel.
In the weeks, leading up to Biden's press conference on Thursday, the president has been pushed by reporters about his own inconsistent mask-wearing.
The CDC updated their guidelines last month to state that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in certain situations, such as when they are outside or in a room with other vaccinated individuals.
However, Biden, who is fully vaccinated, has been erratic and inconsistent in his embrace of the CDC's new policy.
Critics have accused him of hypocrisy for not "following the science" as Democrats so often preach.
More to follow…
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