President Biden said Friday that Americans can “in all probability” expect to face more restrictions due to an increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant, as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the White House was “looking into” mandating the vaccines.
As Biden left the White House to fly to Camp David, he was asked by CBS News if he expected more mandates to be imposed.
“In all probability,” Biden responded. “By the way, we had a good day yesterday. Almost a million people got vaccinated, about half a million of those people for the first time or for their second shot. So I am hopeful that people are beginning to realize how essential it is to move.”
Biden did not elaborate on the nature of any new restrictions, or whether they would be imposed by the federal government or by state and local officials. His statement capped a chaotic week of contradictory messages from the White House about the possibility of federal vaccine mandates and the implementation of new lockdowns.
Moments later, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Fox News that the administration was examining the possibility of a federal vaccine mandate.
“That’s something that I think the administration is looking into. It’s something that I think we’re looking to see approval of from the vaccine,” Walensky replied.
“Overall, I think in general, I am all for more vaccination,” she added. “But I have nothing further to say on that except that we are looking into those policies.”
A day earlier, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients denied that the administration was looking at a nationwide vaccine mandate after Biden told reporters: “It’s still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country [get vaccinated]. I don’t know that yet.”
“That’s not an authority that we’re exploring at all,” Zients told CNN. “But I think what the president was referring to is, his Justice Department has said that it is legal for employers to require vaccination.”
On Thursday, White House deputy press secretary Karen Jean-Pierre initially refused to rule out the possibility of renewed stay-at-home orders and school closures this fall.
“We listen to the CDC, and the experts and their guidance,” she said. “You know, our — the CDC is a body that is very well-respected, and we follow — again, we follow their guidance.”
A couple of hours later, Jean-Pierre emphatically tweeted: “We will not be going back into lockdowns. Why? Because we now have the tools to put this virus behind us. The science says the vaccines work – including against the Delta variant. We urge Americans to get vaccinated.”