At the White House press briefing on Feb. 4, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Peter Alexander asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki for an update on what the Biden administration is doing to “combat [the] resistance of Americans to wearing masks and social distancing.” In her reply, she suggested that Americans would have to keep taking strict precautions even after receiving the vaccine.
“….Even after you’re vaccinated, social distancing, wearing masks are going to be essential. We’ll need to keep communicating about that through health and medical experts,” she said in her reply.
Alexander followed up, saying, “What do you say to those folks….who say they don’t believe that 450,000 Americans have died of coronavirus. At the end of today, we need everybody on board to beat this virus. What do you tell them?”
“We know statistically,” Psaki said, “…that if Americans wore a mask for 100 days, 50,000 lives would be saved. We know it’s not going to be overnight, but we’re going to continue to communicate about it in a non-political way and a factual way so that Americans can take steps to save themselves.”
Jen Psaki: "Even after vaccinated, social distancing [and] wearing masks are going to be essential."
Where does it end?? pic.twitter.com/E6Eha3DMhr
— Kylee Zempel (@kyleezempel) February 4, 2021
The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is currently posting a 94.1 percent efficacy rate and the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine are showing an efficacy rate of more than 90 percent. As noted by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Pfizer vaccine in particular offers “strong protection against Covid-19 within about 10 days of the first dose,” The New York Times reported on Dec. 8, 2020.
Given the success of Operation Warp Speed in developing effective vaccines that make the odds of an individual contracting the virus again extremely low, one would expect that those vaccinated can begin to go about their normal lives. However, The New York Times contradicted this prior sentiment in their article on Dec. 9, 2020, a day after their prior analysis of the vaccine, saying people should still wear a mask after receiving obtaining the vaccine.
Although, Donald G. McNeil, a health and science reporter for The New York Times, noted in Nov. 2020 that “we’re basically stuck with masks and not eating or meeting indoors until the vaccines arrive.” The latter part of “until” is the part that the new Biden administration is evidently forgetting.
While Psaki noted the importance of getting vaccinated in the press briefing, leading Democrats were skeptical of vaccination efforts while President Trump was in office.
“You are going to say to the American people, now, here’s a vaccine, it is new, it was done quickly, but trust this federal administration and their health administration that it’s safe? And we’re not 100 percent sure of the consequences? I think it’s going to be a very skeptical American public about taking the vaccine and it should be,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in October.
“If the public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely,” then-VP candidate Kamala Harris said in the vice-presidential debate versus Mike Pence. “If Donald Trump tells us to take it, I’m not taking it.”
Of course, it is the Trump administration that developed Operation Warp Speed in the first place, which the Biden administration has been able to piggyback off of. Psaki’s reiteration that people should continue to shelter-in-place and wear masks at all times is clearly not taking into account the statistics concerning the vaccine’s efficacy, and the overwhelming need for a return to normal as soon as feasible in American life.