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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that, for now, fully vaccinated people still wear masks and socially distance while in public

By Virginia Chamlee
March 25, 2021 04:02 PM
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Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz
| Credit: Alex Wong/Getty

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is defending himself after he shot down a request from a reporter that he wear a mask while appearing before the press with other lawmakers this week.

The exchange took place on Wednesday when a cameraman asked Cruz — who was giving remarks in front of his masked colleagues and a group of reporters who could not be seen on camera — if he wouldn't mind "putting on a mask for us."

"Yea, when I'm talking to the TV camera, I'm not going to wear a mask," Cruz, 50, responded.

"All of us have been immunized [against COVID-19]," he added, gesturing to his Republican colleagues.

When the cameraman said, "It'd make us feel better," Cruz said the cameraman was "welcome to step away," adding, "The whole point of a vaccine — CDC guidance is what we're following."

In fact, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that, for now, fully vaccinated people still wear masks and socially distance while in public. They have lifted such recommendations when vaccinated and low-risk people gather in smaller groups.

It was unclear how far away the reporters were from Cruz at the time.

His remark drew mixed reaction, with some criticizing him and others, particularly in conservative media, defending him. The exchange also became cable TV fodder.

On Thursday, Cruz gave a further explanation via a retweet in which writer James Surowiecki noted that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had been speaking at briefings with no mask since the new administration took office.

"I don't get it. Psaki's been conducting briefings without a mask on in an enclosed room for 2 months," Surowiecki tweeted. "If that's been fine, why is Cruz not wearing a mask a problem?"

Cruz added, "Good Q."

(Another user wrote back to Surowiecki: "What's wrong with simply making someone feel more comfortable/safe regardless their profession? It's no skin off anyone.")

Cruz also defended his decision not to wear a mask in an interview with Fox News on Thursday morning.

"At some point, it is a little silly. I've gotta say, if you turn on the TV on any given day and watch, say, the White House press conference with Jen Psaki, she hasn't worn a mask a single day and you didn't see any petulant reporters throwing a fit and running, screaming out of the room," the Texas lawmaker said.

Echoing criticism among Republicans tracing back to Donald Trump, Cruz said, "It's particularly absurd when every senator standing there has been vaccinated. And at some point, it just becomes theater. It just becomes a virtue-signal as people wear two, three, four masks."

He added he isn't someone "who never wears a mask," and that people should "use common-sense precautions — but people have gotten pretty crazy about this stuff."

Cruz also said that the cameraman who had requested he wear a mask on Wednesday left the room when he declined to do so.

Senate impeachment trial
Sen. Ted Cruz
| Credit: Shutterstock

Fellow Republican Rand Paul recently groused about what he said was the excessive focus on masks, leading Dr. Anthony Fauci to correct him at a congressional hearing.

"You're telling everybody to wear a mask, whether they've had an infection or a vaccine ... What studies do you have that people that have had the vaccine or have had the infection or the vaccine are spreading the infection? If we're not spreading the infection, isn't that just theater?" Paul asked Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, at the hearing.

The full effectiveness of vaccines at preventing the spread of the virus is still being studied, as is the effectiveness of vaccines against certain variants. Studies so far show there is protection against at least some variants.

"Here we go again with the theater," Fauci said at the hearing last week. "Let's get down to the facts ... when you talk about reinfection and you don't keep in the concept of variants, that's an entirely different ballgame. That's a good reason for a mask."

"Let me just state for the record that masks are not theater," Fauci told Paul. "Masks are protective."

Appearing later on CBS This Morning, Fauci said: "[Paul] was saying if you've been infected, or you've been vaccinated, don't wear a mask — which is completely against all public health tenets. So he's dead wrong. I mean, I don't have anything personally against him. But he's just quite frankly incorrect."