The COVID-19 rules are changing so fast these days that the people in charge of this country don’t even know what to do.
The CDC’s new indoor mask guidelines sparked confusion Tuesday as Vice President Kamala Harris almost immediately put on a face covering and forced reporters and guests at the White House to join her — despite there being no local mask mandate in DC.
Harris aides claimed the DC government had just imposed a new indoor mask rule — despite the city falling below the CDC’s new indoor mask threshold with only a “moderate” rate of transmission as of mid-afternoon.
Perplexed reporters reached out to city officials, who said later in the afternoon that they are reviewing the CDC guidance but are not requiring masks indoors — at least not yet.
Harris’ office later said that fresh CDC data show DC nudging into the CDC’s “substantial” transmission bracket with a seven-day average of more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents, meaning that it’s appropriate to require indoor mask use, even among vaccinated people.
The White House Correspondents’ Association said in an email that even though DC wasn’t immediately adopting a local indoor mask mandate, “in keeping with guidance being issued today to White House staff, the WHCA is reimposing its mask requirement for all indoor spaces at the White House.”
The CDC on Tuesday said that areas with “substantial” or “high” rates of COVID-19 transmission should re-adopt indoor mask rules.
About an hour after that guidance was updated, Harris aides sprung into action, telling reporters they had to don a mask to enter an event with Harris and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland about voting rights.
All reporters in the room had been tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday morning and most — if not all of them — are vaccinated against the virus.
A photo posted to Twitter by Christian Datoc of the Washington Examiner shows Harris at the head of a table wearing a mask.
In a subsequent statement, the DC government said it was looking at the CDC guidelines.
“DC Health is reviewing the updated CDC guidance related to mask wearing. Similar to trends across the nation, the District of Columbia has experienced a four-fold increase in its daily case rate since the beginning of July,” the city health department said.
“DC’s transmission increase is driven primarily by unvaccinated individuals. We know that COVID-19 vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community. COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective in preventing COVID-19 disease, hospitalizations, and death.”
The health department said that “[w]earing a mask in indoor public settings provides an additional layer of protection for those who are fully vaccinated — and continues to be one of the key ways to protect those who cannot be vaccinated, namely young children.”
Harris addressed the issue of masks during her remarks at the voting rights event.
“No one likes wearing masks … people need to get vaccinated. That’s the only way we’re going to cut this off. Nobody likes wearing a mask,” Harris said.
The CDC issued the mask pivot and also urged all K-12 schools to require masks despite vaccination status due to the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.
According to CDC data, about 69 percent of US adults have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. About 60 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.