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Biden Urges Continued Mask Mandates, Says Some States Should Pause Reopening

  • President Joe Biden says some states should pause reopening efforts in response to reporter question
  • Remarks on COVID-19 follow impassioned plea from CDC director earlier in the day
  • Connecticut has eased several business restrictions but maintained public health safety protocols

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

After delivering remarks on the COVID-19 response and vaccination efforts, President Joe Biden was asked if he thought some states should pause their reopening efforts. Biden responded simply, “Yes.”

Biden did not specify which states he thought should be more cautious with their policies, but during his remarks he called on all governors, mayors, and local leaders to reinstate mask mandates if they have been lifted. Six states have dropped their mask mandates, four plan to do so in the coming weeks, and several more only mandate mask wearing at the local level.

Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked if Biden plans to reach out to states seeing “real rises” in COVID-19 infections to advise them to slow or pause their reopening efforts. Michigan, New Jersey, and New York were given as examples. Psaki responded that Biden and other administration officials have consistently advised governors to follow public health guidelines, including mask wearing, social distancing, and sanitation protocols.

Also Monday, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control, delivered an impassioned plea calling on people to remain vigilant as vaccination efforts proceed. She expressed fear and a “sense of impending doom” about rising COVID-19 cases, which would represent the fourth wave of infections the United States has experienced if a spike occurs.

According to an internal CDC report obtained by Politico, the U.S. has experienced an 11 percent increase in new cases over the past week, with a seven-day average of 60,000 new cases a day.

In his remarks, Biden said the spread of more infectious variants and “reckless behavior” could undermine the COVID-19 response. “We could still see a setback in the vaccination program,” he said. “And most importantly, if we let our guard down now, we could see a virus getting worse, not better.”

However, Biden also expressed optimism about vaccination efforts. The administration has doubled its initial goal of delivering 100 million shots in Biden’s first 100 days in office. Biden said 33 million doses will become available this week, and expects that by April 19 there will be a vaccination site within five miles of 90 percent of all Americans and that 90 percent of the population will be eligible for the vaccine.

Connecticut accelerated its reopening efforts substantially on March 19, when it lifted most business restrictions. However, the state has retained its mask mandate as well as social distancing and sanitation rules. Certain restrictions remain in place, such as a 50 percent capacity limit on movie theaters and continued closure of bars.

Governor Ned Lamont acknowledged Monday that COVID-19 hospitalizations have been increasing in the state, but that cases remain well within hospital capacities. He was also optimistic that the state’s ongoing vaccination efforts will help keep the virus in check, while loosening business restrictions but maintaining public health safety measures offers a sound strategy.

All Connecticut residents will be able to schedule an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting Thursday.

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