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Jen Psaki Walks Back CDC Director’s Comments on School Opening By Saying She Was Speaking in Her ‘Personal Capacity’

Mediaite logo Mediaite 2/4/2021 Rudy Takala

White House press secretary Jen Psaki walked back comments from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky suggesting that schools might be able to reopen before all teachers have received a vaccine to prevent Covid-19.

“The director of the CDC … said they haven’t issued their final guidance, and we, of course, wait for that process to complete and see its way through,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing.

Walensky suggested at a briefing the previous day that she was receptive to the idea of reopening schools. “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated,” she told reporters. “Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools.”

Psaki subsequently suggested that Walensky was speaking in her “personal capacity,” the first time Psaki has resorted to arguing that an administration official represented an opinion that did not reflect the administration’s position. But the tactic was frequently deployed by her predecessors in the Trump administration to discount statements or actions by officials that didn’t comport with ethics rules or with the administration’s stance. The State Department once applied that disclaimer to comments made by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the lead-up to his speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention. And White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was widely criticized for — in the final months of Trump’s presidency — speaking regularly on the former president’s behalf in her “personal capacity.”

“Dr. Walensky spoke to this in her personal capacity,” Psaki said. “Obviously, she’s the head of the CDC, but we’re going to wait for the final guidance to come out.”

She added that the president “wants school to open” and to “stay open.”

Watch above via CNN.

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