If you have not yet thrown away your stock of coronavirus masks, don’t.
The Biden administration is inching closer to a new push to slap masks on the faces of Americans as it grasps at possible strategies to contain the spread of the delta variant.
The Washington Post framed the discussions as a two-track process taking place at the White House and at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Convention. Although the Post report Wednesday quoted White House aides as saying the CDC was not being pressured by the White House, Biden appointees dominate the CDC’s leadership.
Although the report described all ideas being discussed as tentative, it said, “One idea batted around by some officials would be to ask all Americans to wear masks when vaccinated and unvaccinated people mix at public places or indoors, such as at malls or movie theaters.”
The Post based that tidbit, as with most of its report, on sources it did not name.
It noted the political peril of such a step.
“A return to a recommendation of more masking or a shift in White House messaging that urges Americans to wear face coverings in more situations would be a blow to President Biden’s efforts to convince Americans that the virus is in retreat,” the Post reported.
“Success against the virus is a message that Biden hopes to use in the 2022 midterm elections to help his party retain control of the House and Senate,” it said.
Biden foreshadowed the creeping return of mask mandates at a Wednesday town hall on CNN.
“The CDC is going to say that what we should do is everyone over the age — under the age of 12 should probably be wearing a mask in school,” he said. “That’s probably what’s going to happen.”
Those in the wider orbit of policy discussions said some kind of change is in the works.
“It’s fair to say they are reconsidering everything,” said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, who was in on a call with the CDC this week.
“I think everything’s on the table,” he said, including rules for masks and social distancing.
The report indicates that the major thrust of any new rules will be Americans who are not yet vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician for Congress, has sent a message that vaccinated individuals “may consider additional protective actions,” including wearing masks, and alerted members of Congress that new rules are likely, the Post reported.
“Individuals have the personal discretion to wear a mask,” the message said, “and future developments in the coronavirus delta variant local threat may require the resumption of mask wear for all as now seen in several counties in the United States.”
“This should be CDC’s call,” a Biden administration official told the Post.
“But as we saw in May, there are problems with just leaving it to the CDC,” the official said, citing a May decision to relax mask guidance that had surprised the White House.
Publicly, the administration continues to spout the company line that science leads the policy parade.
“At the White House, we follow the guidance and advice of health and medical experts,” said Kevin Munoz, assistant press secretary, according to the Post. “Public health guidance is made by the CDC, and they continue to recommend that fully vaccinated individuals do not wear a mask. If you are not vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask.”
One expert said some kind of change in mask rules is inevitable.
“They would be irresponsible if they did not reconsider mask advice,” said Dr. Jody Lanard, who has served as a pandemic consultant for the World Health Organization.
But confusion in communication has plagued past announcements.
CDC officials “always say they want to follow the science, but they did not prepare the public early on to say ‘we are looking at multiple factors, including how science fits in with reality and social science, and how it fits with expected and unexpected changes, especially sudden changes, where we have to turn on a dime to try to protect more people,'” Lanard said.
She said a properly nuanced message might be: “We have delta. We are going to take a chance of enraging people who are already understandably enraged by our mask advice. … This is a new phase of the pandemic not being under control, but it’s better than the last phase.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.