President-elect Joe Biden on Friday said that he won’t impose national mandates to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or to wear a mask.
But Biden said that he will encourage people to voluntarily do both.
“No, I don’t think it should be mandatory. I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory,” Biden said of vaccines at a press conference in Delaware.
“But I would do everything in my power — just like I don’t think masks have to be made mandatory nationwide — I will do everything in my power as president of the United States to encourage people to do the right thing. And when they do it, demonstrate that it matters.”
Biden said in September that his legal advisers believe a national mask mandate would be constitutional. On Thursday, he said he wanted Americans to voluntarily wear a mask for 100 days after he takes office on Jan. 20.
Biden repeated Friday that during his inaugural address, “I’m going to ask people to commit for 100 days to wear a mask.”
The former vice president will assume power in the midst of a massive vaccination deployment, which is expected to begin shortly after the Food and Drug Administration meets Dec. 10 to review a Nov. 20 vaccine application from Pfizer.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, director of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, said Wednesday that 100 million Americans — or one-third of the population — may be vaccinated by February. An additional 14 million Americans already tested positive for the virus, which has killed 278,000 and caused severe economic and social disruption.
Biden repeated at the press conference that he will get vaccinated to encourage the public to do so as well.
He said that voluntarily wearing masks after he takes office could help crush the pandemic.
“If people do it for 100 days in the middle of what will be still a raging crisis and the vaccine is able to be distributed, they’re going to see deaths drop off the edge,” Biden said.
“They’re going to see hundreds of thousands of people, not getting sick. My hope is they’ll be then inclined to say, ‘OK, it’s worth — it’s worth the patriotic duty to go ahead and protect people’.”