With even Democratic states moving to roll back mask mandates, the White House said Wednesday it is beginning to prepare for a less-restrictive phase of the national COVID response in the face of growing impatience to ease up and turn toward post-pandemic normalcy.
President Joe Biden entered office promising to lead the nation out of the emergency phase of the pandemic, but it is state and local leaders who are stepping into leadership roles while Biden faces increasing scrutiny for his caution amid declining cases and rising public frustration.
The White House for the first time acknowledged movement in its planning on Wednesday, saying conversations have been underway privately for weeks.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said officials are consulting with state and local leaders and public health officials "on steps we should be taking to keep the country moving forward." His comments came as states have moved to ease their own restrictions.
Governors and local school officials have been pressing for clearer federal guidelines for easing or ending restrictions, but federal officials have been slow to preview potential changes. That's led to a patchwork of local and state policies that differ widely from one place to the next.