Biden administration officials Susan Rice, White House domestic policy adviser, and Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, went maskless while speaking during Tuesday’s press briefing as Democrats begin to tout the practice of “double-masking.”
Both Rice and Psaki spoke from the podium Tuesday without masks, despite the fact President Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring individuals to wear masks on federal property with limited exceptions:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 26, 2021
Susan Rice’s return to the White House briefing room pic.twitter.com/IDsYChP4qq
— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) January 26, 2021
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) January 26, 2021
Prior to taking office, Biden previewed his plan for 100 days of masking, requiring masks “wherever possible.”
Upon taking office, Biden signed an executive order requiring masks on federal property with limited exceptions. Agencies are able to make “categorical or case-by-case exceptions” to the order, but the heads of agencies are required to document all exceptions in writing as well as “require appropriate alternative safeguards, such as additional physical distancing measures, additional testing, or reconfiguration of workspace, consistent with applicable law.”
It remains unclear if Psaki and Rice have been formally granted exceptions, as the White House has yet to release documentation providing those details.
Psaki also failed to wear a mask at the podium during Monday’s press briefing and other past briefings as well.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser on the coronavirus who has recently appeared to condone the practice of double masking, also spoke at a press briefing last week without a mask covering his face. However, he stated during the briefing that Americans “absolutely should be wearing a mask.”
Fauci on Monday did not dismiss the practice of double-masking, or wearing two masks at the same time, telling TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie that it “just makes common sense that it would likely be more effective.” The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director failed to rule out double masking again on Tuesday, even for those who have been vaccinated.
“You know, we have to be really careful because we do know that the primary endpoint of the vaccine trials that show the 94 to 95 percent efficacy was really based on clinically apparent disease,” Fauci said after America’s Newsroom co-anchor Dana Perino asked about double-masking after vaccinations.
Fauci added that experts do not yet know of the vaccine “protects against infections so that people who can be vaccinated and feel very well and have no clinically apparent disease could still have virus in their nasal fairings because they got infected but they did not get any symptoms.
And just to be doubly sure, there are a couple of reasons to wear masks even after vaccination. One, you want to protect other people in case you have virus in your nasal fairings, and if you look in the community, there’s enough virus out there that before we start pulling back on things like public health measures, you want the overwhelming population vaccinated. And as I’ve said, the calculation — even though it’s still an estimate — would be somewhere between 70 and 85 percent of the population.
“It’s tough for people to think about light at the end of the tunnel with that,” Perino said.