Biden pleads with governors to reinstate mask mandates as COVID-19 infections rise and CDC director says she’s ‘scared’ by spread

President Joe Biden on March 23.
  • President Biden pleaded with governors to reinstate mask mandates as COVID-19 cases climb.
  • "Please, this is not politics. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down," Biden said.
  • Biden also cited CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who said she's "scared" by the virus's spread.
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President Joe Biden pleaded with governors and local leaders to reinstate mask mandates to help stop the spread of COVID-19 as US cases rise again, even as millions are vaccinated.

"I'm reiterating my call for every governor, mayor, and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate," Biden said during an address from the White House on Monday afternoon. "Please, this is not politics. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down. And businesses should require masks as well. The failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place."

Biden added, "Mask up, mask up. It's a patriotic duty. It's the only way we ever get back to normal, to cheer together in stadiums full of fans, to gather together on holidays again safely, go to graduations, weddings."

The president noted that while COVID-19 cases have fallen significantly as millions of Americans have gotten vaccinated, cases are beginning to tick up again and deaths are rising in some parts of the country. The seven-day case average in the US has risen about 16% over the past week.

Biden condemned "reckless" behavior, likely referring to maskless crowds in places like Florida, which has reopened more quickly than any other state. Florida has seen a steep rise in cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the UK.

"The war on COVID-19 is far from over," Biden said. "With cases rising again, new variants are spreading and, sadly, some of the reckless behavior we've seen on television over the past few weeks means new cases are to come in the weeks ahead."

He added, "People are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing. ... We're giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains."

Biden also cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who delivered an emotional plea on Monday for Americans to remain vigilant. Walensky said she is "scared" by the uptick in cases.

"I am asking you to just hold on a little longer, to get vaccinated when you can, so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends," she said.

Walensky is scheduled to speak with governors on Tuesday about why they shouldn't lift their pandemic-related restrictions yet.

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