President Joe Biden said Friday the US will, “in all probability,” see more guidelines and restrictions amid rising coronavirus cases and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
“And by the way, we had a good day yesterday,” Biden told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing for Camp David, referring to what he said were encouraging numbers of people who got vaccinated Thursday.
Pressed Friday on whether the US is headed for more lockdowns amid rising cases, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, “The way we see this is that we have the tools in our tool belt to fight this, this, this variant,” adding, “we are not going to head towards a lockdown.”
“Our goal is to make sure that we are not headed towards that – that is not going to be the direction that we take, because we have the tools to prevent that,” Jean-Pierre said, pointing to the availability of free vaccines across the country.
The administration’s comments come as a new study, published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows the variant produces similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected. The finding “was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC’s updated mask recommendation,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said Friday.
Earlier this week, Walensky unveiled new guidance that vaccinated people in areas with “substantial” or “high” levels of Covid-19 transmission should resume wearing masks indoors. More than 75% of the US population lives in these areas.
The CDC study and updated mask guidance came amid further efforts from the Biden administration to mitigate the spread of the Delta variant.
Biden on Thursday announced a number of new steps his administration will take to try to get more Americans vaccinated, including requiring that all federal employees must attest to being vaccinated against Covid-19 or face strict protocols.
In his sternest approach yet on the issue, the President bluntly argued that if you are unvaccinated, “You present a problem to yourself, to your family and to those with whom you work.”
The federal employee vaccination requirement marked a pivot away from encouraging Americans to get vaccinated in their own time toward placing the onus for the continuing pandemic on unvaccinated individuals.
The administration also announced additional vaccine incentives, such as expanding paid leave for employees who take time off to get themselves and their family members vaccinated. The President called on states, territories and local governments to do more to incentivize vaccination, including offering $100 to Americans for getting vaccinated, paid for with American Rescue Plan funding. Additionally, he asked school districts nationwide to host pop-up vaccination clinics over the coming weeks.
The administration stopped short of pursuing a vaccination requirement for the entire country, however. Biden said Thursday that he didn’t know yet whether the federal government had the power to require vaccines, and White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the administration is not considering a nationwide requirement.
“That’s not an authority that we’re exploring at all,” Zients said.
This story has been updated with background information.
CNN’s Rachel Janfaza, Maegan Vazquez and Michael Nedelman contributed to this report.