Politics & Policy

Psaki Dismisses School Masking Mandate Concerns, Says Her Daughter ‘Can Wear a Mask All Day’

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 22, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday dismissed concerns over the CDC’s new guidance that teachers, staff, and students should wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, by arguing that her kindergarten-aged daughter has said she can “wear a mask all day.”

Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Psaki about Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s announcement that he is considering withholding funds from school districts that do not allow parents to opt-out of policies that require masking in the classroom. Doocy questioned if President Biden believes parents should have the power to make that decision for their children.

“I will say as a parent myself of two young children that I want public health officials to make decisions about how to keep my kids safe, not politicians,” she said. “And not only is Governor DeSantis not abiding by public health decisions, he’s fundraising off of this. So, my view is that — and our view as an administration — is that parents in Florida, parents across the country should have the ability and the knowledge that their kids are going to school and they’re in safe environments that shouldn’t be too much to ask.”

Doocy followed up by noting that DeSantis has expressed concern about “harmful emotional, academic and psychological effects of putting kindergarteners in masks for hours at a time.” 

He asked if that concern is shared by officials whom the administration spoke to before announcing the CDC’s new recommendation on masking in schools.

Psaki said the officials do not have that concern and added that “from personal experience, my rising kindergartner told me two days ago she could wear a mask all day and she’s just happy to go to camp and go to school.”

“The objective from all of our public health officials has been clear — and our secretary of education — kids need to be in school,” she said. “We know there’s a mental health impact of them not being in school and we should take the mitigation measures needed in order for them to be in school and in the classroom, including masking and including allowing that to be part of a reality in these schools to keep the community safe.”

Psaki’s comments come the same day that Democratic New Jersey governor Phil Murphy announced that he will impose a mask mandate for students from kindergarten through high school for the upcoming academic semester. 

Mask orders and mandatory vaccines have been given renewed consideration as concern grows over the highly contagious Delta variant. The new variant is spreading rapidly in areas with low vaccination rates.

While children under the age of twelve are not currently eligible to be vaccinated, National Review has previously reported that unvaccinated children have a lower risk of death or serious outcome from COVID-19 than vaccinated people in their 30s do.

Meanwhile, vaccine mandates and mask requirements have drawn criticism from conservatives who argue that the mandates violate constitutional freedoms.

DeSantis has led the charge against COVID-19 lockdowns and mask mandates during the pandemic. While many schools nationwide struggled to return students to in-person learning, schools in Florida have been open for in-person instruction since October 2020.

Late last month DeSantis issued an executive order making mask-wearing optional in the state’s public schools.

“The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children.”

“In Florida, there will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures. There will be no restrictions and no mandates in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in a speech announcing the order.

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