An unmasked President Biden on Thursday said vaccinated people can stop wearing the COVID-19 protections — and that they can even resume shaking hands.
“Today is a great day for America,” Biden said in the White House Rose Garden after the CDC said vaccinated people can ditch masks indoors.
“If you’ve been vaccinated, you don’t have to wear your mask and you can shake hands. You can even give each other a hug. But if you’ve not been vaccinated, please wear a mask,” Biden said.
Biden appeared unmasked for the outdoor remarks. His advice on handshakes appeared to exceed the CDC’s updated guidance.
But Biden called for people who abandon masks to be pleasant toward those who continue to wear them. Biden has faced ridicule for continuing to wear masks outdoors despite previous CDC guidance saying it was unnecessary.
“Be patient with one another. You know, some may say, ‘I just feel more comfortable, continuing to wear a mask.’ They may feel that way … you see them, please treat them with kindness and respect,” Biden said.
“We’ve had too much conflict, too much bitterness, too much anger, too much politicization of this issue.”
Biden said that there shouldn’t be any government enforcement effort to make sure people are vaccinated if they aren’t wearing a mask.
“We’re not gonna go out and arrest people. But the fact of the matter is, I still believe the vast majority of the American people care about the safety of their neighbors,” he said.
As of Thursday, about 59 percent of American adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. More than 45 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.