President Joe Biden on Tuesday called out Republican governors on their positions against mask mandates in schools, calling some recent actions “a little disingenuous” and out of line with a small government message.
The remarks came during a White House news conference when a reporter asked about children in schools who have tested positive for Covid-19.
While not singling out anyone by name, Biden said he found it insincere when certain governors said the government should get out of the way as the CDC urges Americans to wear masks in areas of high transmission.
“And I find it interesting that some of the very people who are saying that, who hold government positions, are people who are threatening that if a schoolteacher asks a student if they have been vaccinated, or if a principal says that ‘everyone in my school should wear a mask’ or the school board votes for it, that governor will nullify that — that governor has the authority to say, ‘You can’t do that,’” the president said.
“I find that totally counterintuitive and, quite frankly, disingenuous,” he added.
Biden said he was “very concerned” about the trend of schoolchildren testing positive, adding that most children who become infected are living in states with low vaccination rates. “So, my plea is that for those who are not vaccinated, think about it,” he said.
Tensions have recently ramped up between the Biden administration and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who has threatened to withhold funds from school districts in the state if they require masks. The president previously told DeSantis to “get out of the way” of efforts to curb the spread of the Delta variant, while the governor said he was intentionally blocking what he called “lockdown policies” like mandatory masking.
The back-to-school clash about masks comes as many students across the country head into the classroom, with varying local and state guidance around masking. Children under 12 remain ineligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Asked whether he had the power to intervene in states like Texas and Florida on masking issues, Biden said on Tuesday, “I don’t believe that I do,” adding that “we’re checking that.”