Masks will remain part of everyday life through the “next year,” according to President Biden, who contends new strains of the coronavirus mean face coverings will remain one of the most effective ways of saving lives.
His comments, delivered during a Thursday visit to the National Institutes of Health, echo public health experts who say that social distancing and other mitigation efforts will have to stay in place until herd immunity is reached.
But his words will inevitably disappoint people who believed the rollout of vaccines would quickly bring a return to normality.
Biden made a plea for patience as he addressed scientists who have been at the forefront of developing a vaccine against COVID-19.
“You know that wearing this mask through the next year here can save lives — a significant numbers of lives,” he said during his visit to the Maryland facility.
Biden’s administration is mulling sending masks directly to households.
He has asked the public to wear masks for the first 100 days of his term and has issued executive orders mandating that face coverings be worn on public transport and on all federal property.
On Thursday, Biden said it was the public’s “patriotic duty” to mask up in the “war” against COVID-19 even as he announced orders for hundreds of millions more vaccine doses.
Biden begins remarks at @NIH apologizing for not taking off his mask. "Although we're more than 10 feet away I think it's important that I not," he said, emphasizing the importance of masks.
— Patsy Widakuswara (@pwidakuswara) February 11, 2021
“The new strains emerging create immense challenges, and masking is still the easiest thing to do to save lives,” he said. “But we need everyone to mask up.”
The country’s top infectious disease expert repeated the message on Friday morning.
Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday that people would have to continue wearing masks for several months, even as millions more people were vaccinated. But he was far from specific.
“There’s still going to be the important need to wear masks. I think we still need to do that,” he told Good Morning America.
“You want to avoid congregate settings, but you can gradually get to the situation where you might open up restaurants with limited seating and things like that,” Fauci added. “But it’s got to be done prudently and gradually.”