President Joe Biden lamented Tuesday that wearing a mask to stop the spread of the coronavirus had become divisive in the United States.
“Masks have needlessly divided this country,” Biden said. “Masking, as directed, is a patriotic duty, but so is treating each other with respect and patience.”
The president spoke about the next phase of the ongoing federal vaccination effort for the coronavirus.
He encouraged Americans to get their vaccine shots, but he did not offer a benchmark for what it would take to end mask mandates.
“If we can continue to drive vaccinations up and caseloads down, we’ll need our masks less and less,” Biden said.
The president stepped up to the podium holding his mask in his hand and left the event without wearing his mask — despite his assertion in an interview he would still wear his mask in the White House even though he was vaccinated.
He said he would focus on three groups of Americans who needed to be vaccinated — kids between 12-15, adults who had a hard time finding a shot, and Americans who remained unconvinced getting the vaccine was necessary.
“Now we’re going to have to bring the vaccine to people who are less eager,” he said.
Biden sent a direct message to younger people in their twenties and thirties who believed they did not need the vaccine.
“Let me be absolutely clear, you do need to get vaccinated,” he said.
Biden alluded to former President Donald Trump’s effort to develop the vaccine, giving him rare credit for the achievement.
“Two of our vaccines were authorized under a prior administration, a Republican administration,” he said.
Biden declined to say whether he supported the idea of a government vaccine mandate, but said he would keep working to encourage Americans to get the vaccine voluntarily.
“We know we’re going to get to a place where the doubters exist or the people, I don’t want to say lazy, just not sure how to get to where they want to go. It’s going to be hard,” he said.