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Jen Psaki Emphasizes 'Data and Science' in Puzzling Response on CDC Guidelines

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

During Friday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave something of a puzzling response about guidance on mask mandates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). "What I can tell you is the CDC guidance follows data and science. And data and science moves at the speed of data and science," she told a reporter who pointed out that only a few states have mask mandates in place. The reporter had also asked, "is CDC guidance out of step with the vast majority of states?"


Psaki stuck to and emphasized "data and science" as the motivation for the CDC, including when it comes to how "the CDC is reviewing the guidance and has been doing that and they're going to base any recommendations they make on science."

She also used the "data and science" line when sharing how the federal government makes its decisions, which is according to CDC guidelines. Psaki reminded the reporter that the CDC is a federal agency. 

Psaki did not directly answer the reporter's question as to if this means "the assumption though, is that Democratic governors, and Republican governors, in all these states are not basing decisions on data and science," other than to say "I can't speak for how they're making their decisions."

When it comes to Democratic governors making such decisions, it's almost certainly due to the political science, as Guy and Katie pointed out earlier this month. And, as Guy also highlighted on Thursday, a recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows a plurality, at 49 percent, want mask mandates removed. 


Earlier in her response, Psaki did claim that "we certainly respect their right to do that, and respect their role in making their decisions about their communities," referring to local leaders who may have decided to rescind mask mandates.

Psaki must have a short memory, then. Just last summer, the White House and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) engaged in a back-and-forth about mask mandates for schoolchildren in the state of Florida. "At a certain point, leaders are going to have to choose whether they're going to follow public health guidelines or whether they're going to follow politics," Psaki had said last August

In a statement for Townhall at the time, Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Gov. DeSantis, emphasized that the attacks were "unprovoked."

On July 30, 2021, Gov. DeSantis had issued an executive order empowering parents to decide if their children would wear masks to school. 

Not only did Psaki make comments from the podium, but the Department of Education made funds available to school districts in Florida that were hit with financial penalties for defying the governor's order on mask mandates.

Psaki also addressed DeSantis by name more recently, in a press conference from February 9:

Q    Thank you.  Can I ask real quick about the masks?  We had another state today dropping the indoor mask mandate as the CDC is confirming that their guidance is not changing.  But these decisions that are being made at the local level, like you guys always talk about, are out of step with the science that is at the forefront of the CDC, of this White House.  So why are we not hearing the same messaging criticizing states that are, you know, making these moves like we heard previously with, for instance, Ron DeSantis?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I would say there is a distinct difference between standing in the way, which Ron DeSantis did — or Governor DeSantis; I’ll give him his full title — of teachers, school administrators, and others taking steps to protect the students in their school communities.  There’s a difference between standing in the way of it, threatening to pull back funding; and allowing for local school districts to make choices, which is what a number of these states are doing.


In that same press conference, Psaki also confirmed to a reporter that Americans should follow CDC guidelines rather than their local leaders.

"No parent who wants to send their kid with a mask should be penalized.  No teacher or — who wants to wear a mask should be penalized or school district who makes that choice should be penalized," Psaki was firm in saying at one point during that February 9 press conference.

That is not what's at issue, though. Parents who want their children to wear masks and teachers and staff who want to wear masks are free to do so. It's about parents being empowered to make that decision.

In other CDC news, the federal agency just recently and rather quietly changed the standards for speech milestones in young children, as our friends at Twitchy highlighted.

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