Psaki: Social Distancing and Masking Still ‘Essential’ after Vaccination

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday said social distancing and masking will be “essential” even after vaccination, tempering hope that vaccines will offer Americans a return to normalcy.

The comment came in response to a question about what the White House is doing to combat some Americans’ hesitancy to wear masks during a press briefing.

“The president has taken steps that are possible through his federal authorities including mandating [masks] on public lands, on airplanes,” she said, adding that the administration is working to make health and medical experts available to make people understand that the vaccine will not work as a magic bullet to end the pandemic.

“It’s obviously an incredible medical breakthrough and we want every American to have one, but even after vaccination social distancing, wearing masks are going to be essential,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and other health experts have urged those who have been vaccinated to continue wearing masks and social distancing as there is not enough evidence yet to say whether vaccinated people can still spread the virus.

The CDC says that “not enough information is currently available” to say when, or even if, it will stop recommending that Americans wear masks and practice social distancing.

However, some experts, including epidemiologist and Harvard Medical School professor Julia Marcus have argued that telling people not to behave any differently after being vaccinated takes away the incentive for some to receive the shot.

“Trying to eliminate even the lowest-risk changes in behavior both underestimates people’s need to be close to one another and discourages the very thing that will get everyone out of this mess: vaccine uptake,” Marcus wrote in a recent essay for the Atlantic

“Risk-mitigation strategies are needed in public spaces, particularly indoors, until more people are vaccinated and infections wane,” she writes. “But not all human interactions take place in public. Advising people that they must do nothing differently after vaccination—not even in the privacy of their homes—creates the misimpression that vaccines offer little benefit at all. Vaccines provide a true reduction of risk, not a false sense of security.”

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