(CNSNews.com) - "Are you concerned that the CDC's new mask guidance could sow confusion?" a reporter asked President Joe Biden on Tuesday, after the CDC issued new guidance urging a return to indoor masking for everyone.
"We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated, and they're sowing enormous confusion," Biden said.
"And the more we learn, the more we learn about this virus, and the Delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned. And the only one thing we know for sure, if those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we'd be in a very different world. So, get vaccinated. If you haven't, you're not nearly as smart as I said you were. Thank you."
Biden also said his administration is considering a vaccination mandate for all federal employees.
'Delta variant showing its willingness to outsmart us'
Biden spoke after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a telephone briefing that "new science" on the delta variant -- now the predominant strain circulating in the United States -- prompted CDC's updated masking guidance for fully vaccinated people:
"The delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it," she said.
In recent days, I have seen new scientific data from recent outbreak investigations showing that the delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that cause COVID 19.
Information on the delta variant from several states and other countries indicates that on rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others. This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.
However -- "Vaccinated individuals continue to represent a very small amount of transmission occurring around the country," she said just a moment later.
Walensky said foremost among CDC's recommendations is for everyone to get vaccinated.
And universal masking is making a comeback:
"In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the delta variant and protect others. This includes schools," Walensky said.
"CDC recommends that everyone in K to 12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall, with proper prevention strategies in place.
"Finally, CDC recommends community leaders encourage vaccination and universal masking to prevent further outbreaks in areas of substantial and high transmission."
As the map below shows -- a map posted on the CDC's website -- most of the country, except for 15 northern states, are experiencing substantial or high transmission.
At the White House press briefing on Tuesday, a reporter asked spokeswoman Jen Psaki if the White House regrets President Biden's comments on July 4th, when he said, "we've gained the upper hand on the virus."
"Well, first, I would say that, in the President’s remarks, he also made clear — and I’m quoting him — that today, “while the virus hasn’t been vanquished,” we — you know, he made clear that it was not over; that those who were unvaccinated were still at risk," Psaki said.
"He made clear that you were protected from serious illness, disea-- or hospitalization if you were vaccinated. That remains the case. And he encouraged people who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated.
"But, again, the role of the federal government and our public health officials is to continue to look at evolving data, evolving threats of a historic virus, provide that public health guidance to the American people to protect more people and save more lives. That’s what they’re doing."
Another reporter asked Psaki: "And what is your message to Americans who are feeling whiplash right now? Why should they trust the same group of health officials who, just two months ago, told them they don’t have to wear a mask anymore inside?"
"Because our goal is to save their lives," Psaki replied, "and our responsibility and the responsibility of public health officials is to continue to provide updated guidance, if it warrants, from an evolving virus."