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President Biden on Monday pleaded with governors, mayors and local leaders to maintain or reinstate mask mandates in order to help America reach the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: Biden's comments came hours after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warned of her sense of "impending doom" of a potential fourth wave of COVID-19 cases.

The big picture: While vaccines are rolling out across the country, masking and social distancing is still highly encouraged by public health experts to help protect the nation from another wave. But many state and local lawmakers are lifting COVID-19 restrictions, including mask orders.

  • Even in states where governors lift masking orders, local authorities can still mandate masks, as can business owners.
  • The Centers for Disease Control has determined that fully vaccinated people can gather indoors in small groups without masks and still be safe.

What he's saying: "This is not politics. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down, and businesses should require masks as well," Biden said in an address about a new expansion in COVID vaccine sites.

  • "The failure to take this virus seriously [is] precisely what got us into this mess in the first place," he added.

Go deeper: Biden says 90% of Americans will have access to vaccine site within 5 miles by April 19

Go deeper

Mar 29, 2021 - Health

CDC director warns of "impending doom" as COVID cases increase

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky went off script at a briefing Monday and made an emotional plea to Americans not to let up on public health measures amid fears of a fourth wave.

What they're saying: “I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom," Walensky said, appearing to hold back tears. "We do not have the luxury of inaction. For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge."

Mar 29, 2021 - Health

CDC: Pfizer, Moderna vaccines are 90% effective in real-world conditions

A registered nurse loads a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Frederic Brown/AFP via Getty Images

People who are fully vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna are 90% less likely to get infected with COVID-19, according to a CDC study that tested nearly 4,000 health care workers and other essential workers for the virus weekly.

Why it matters: The data show how well the vaccine performs in non-clinical trial settings. During the mRNA clinical trials for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, effectiveness from full vaccination was about 95%.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Mar 29, 2021 - Health

Millions of Americans remain vulnerable as variants drive up cases

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in several states, partially a result of variants of the virus becoming more widespread, experts say.

Why it matters: Even though a remarkable 72% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, millions of Americans — particularly younger Americans with underlying conditions — remain vulnerable.

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