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Psaki: Florida schools not having mask mandate 'would be greatly concerning'

The Hill logo The Hill 7/22/2021 Alex Gangitano
Jen Psaki, Ron DeSantis that are talking to each other: Psaki: Florida schools not having mask mandate 'would be greatly concerning' © Getty Psaki: Florida schools not having mask mandate 'would be greatly concerning'

White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's (R) comments that there will be no mask mandates in Florida schools, saying it's "concerning" because no one under the age of 12 is vaccinated.

"If I were a parent in Florida, that would be greatly concerning to me because kids under the age of 12 are not vaccinated. They're not eligible yet," Psaki said.

President Biden said Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would likely issue guidance that everyone under the age of 12 should wear a mask in school. He acknowledged that enforcing the guidance may be difficult, but predicted children under 12 will be eligible for the vaccine "soon."

DeSantis said Thursday that Florida will not be making kids wear masks, adding "we need our kids to breathe."


Video: Pediatrics association recommends in-school masks for all amid COVID-19 surge (TODAY)

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Psaki responded that not wearing masks puts unvaccinated children at risk.

"But that puts kids at risk, it's not aligned with public health guidelines. We know masks are not the most comfortable thing. I will say, my kids are quite adjusted to them, as I know many kids are. So certainly, we would have concern about any step that doesn't abide by public health guidelines and we think it puts people at greater risk," she said.

On what Biden can do to prevent different standards for kids under 12 when school returns in the fall, Psaki said the president can speak out about the risks of the delta variant but noted the decision on masks will ultimately be up to local school districts.

It's unclear if children under the age of 12 will be eligible to receive the vaccine by the time schools restart in the fall. Vaccine trials for children under the age of 12 are ongoing, and federal regulators would also have to provide a green light before any doses are administered.

Biden's comments on Wednesday at the CNN town hall were in response to an audience member running for a local school board who expressed concerns about children's safety as schools return in the fall.

The CDC recently encouraged schools to reopen for in-person learning this fall and said that fully vaccinated students and teachers do not need to wear masks indoors.

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