Biden administration’s mixed COVID messaging adds confusion on vaccines, masks

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 9:48 AM PDT
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(CNN) – As the delta variant rages across the country, Americans are struggling to understand how to best protect themselves and others.

Top health officials in the Biden administration have added to the confusion with a series of contradictory messages on everything from masks to mandates.

“You have the opportunity to make the personal choice to add extra layers of protection if you so choose,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But just days later, the head of the CDC did a complete 180.

“In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the delta variant and protect others,” Walensky said.

The reason for the shift was new data, according to the CDC director. But the information wasn’t made public for days, causing speculation and confusion.

This week a comment by the head of the National Institutes of Health left parents scratching their heads.

“At home, parents of unvaccinated kids should be thoughtful about this and the recommendation is to wear masks as well,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH. “I know that’s uncomfortable I know it seems weird, but it is the best way to protect your kids.”

Collins tweeted a correction, but ultimately Dr. Anthony Fauci had to play clean up.

“Parents do not need to wear masks in their own home. That is the right answer,” said the chief medical adviser to the president. “Dr. Collins said he misspoke and I give him great credit for admitting it very, very quickly of saying that he misspoke.”

Messaging over a vaccine mandate was no clearer.

Just a day after the White House COVID-19 response coordinator told CNN the administration was not considering a nationwide vaccine mandate, the CDC director contradicted him while on Fox News.

“Are you for mandating a vaccine on a federal level?” asked Fox anchor Bret Baier.

“That’s something that I think the administration is looking into,” Walensky replied.

She later backtracked in a tweet.

“To clarify: there will be no nationwide mandate. I was referring to mandates by private institutions and portions of the federal government. There will be no federal mandate,” Walensky said.

And while booster shots appeared to be off the table just last week

“I want to be very clear; people do not need to go out and get a booster shot,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General

“Right now, they are certain that no Americans need boosters,” added White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients

But it’s unclear for how long.

“I think it’s very possible that we’re going to require boosters and it’s possible we’re going to know that fairly soon,” Murthy said.

The mixed messaging comes at a time the highly contagious delta variant is by far the dominant strain of the coronavirus right now, accounting for more than 93% of new infections.

There has been a 42% increase in coronavirus deaths since last week.

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