A top White House adviser who made headlines for saying “Covid is the best thing that ever happened” to Joe Biden said on Sunday the president still wears a mask outdoors out of habit, even though federal guidance says he need not do so.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said fully vaccinated people need not wear masks outside if alone or not in the company of strangers.
Announcing the change at the White House, Biden wore a mask as he walked to the microphone. Asked what message that might send as his administration seeks to overcome widespread resistance to vaccines and public health guidelines, the president said Americans should watch him “take it off and not put it back on until I get inside”.
He wore a mask for parts of outdoor appearances in the week that followed.
On Sunday, Anita Dunn told CNN’s State of the Union: “I myself found that I was still wearing my mask outdoors this week, because it has become such a matter of habit. I think the president takes the CDC guidelines very seriously. And he’s always taken his role as sending a signal to follow the science very seriously as well.
“We do take some extra precautions for him because he is the president of the United States. But I would say that people should follow the CDC guidelines, and they should take advantage of getting the vaccine, getting fully vaccinated, and taking that mask off, particularly as the weather grows so beautiful and we all want to be outside.
“It’s a lot more fun to take that outside walk without a mask, that outside bike ride. And I think that as people get vaccinated … they’re enjoying that freedom. So, as we move forward, I think that you will see more and more people … getting the vaccine and realising it’s one big step towards normalcy in this country.”
Dunn’s remark about Covid being the “best thing” to happen to Biden was reported by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes in Lucky, a book about the 2020 election. Made to an associate, the authors write, the remark dealt with something “officials believed but would never say in public” as the US reeled under the virus last year.
Touting his experience in government and commitment to bipartisan co-operation, Biden beat Donald Trump by more than 7m votes and a clear electoral college result.
The Biden White House has set goals for progress on vaccine delivery which have been easily met. This week, Biden said public schools should “probably all be open” in September.
Asked if that was a definite goal, Dunn said: “Given the science, if the vaccination programme in this country proceeds, if people do go get their vaccines, he does believe that schools should be able to reopen in September, and reopen safely, following the CDC guidelines.
“But he said probably. He did not say absolutely, because we have all seen since, unfortunately, January of 2020, it’s an unpredictable virus.”