White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki turned on Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R., as he fulfilled a campaign promise to allow parents to opt out of school mask mandates.
The newly sworn governor met quickly despite his order from some of Virginia's blue areas, including Psaki's home in Arlington County, as well as Fairfax, Alexandria and Richmond. Arlington County said in a statement on Saturday that its public schools will "continue to require all staff and students to wear masks inside the school grounds and on buses as part of our layered approach to safety."
It won the approval of President Biden's chief spokesman, who said in August that her kindergarten could wear a mask "all day" after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors.
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"Hello," Psaki tweeted from his personal account. "Arlington [County] parent here (do not think you are @GlennYoungkin but correct me if I am wrong). Thanks to @APSVirginia to stand up for our children, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transferable variant. "
The order from Youngkin, whose victory was partly driven by parents who were tired of coronavirus mandates and lockdowns, does not prevent students from wearing masks in schools, as some progressives have at times claimed. On the contrary, it allows them to opt out if they choose: "The parents of any child enrolled in a primary or secondary school or a school-based childcare and education program may choose not to have their children subject to a valid mandate. at the child's school or education program. "
Psaki was sharply criticized by conservatives for speaking out, and some told Psaki that she was free to continue masking her children and also to listen to the will of Virginia voters.
"I have read the order and Jen is welcome to do for her child as she pleases," tweeted CNN's Mary Katharine Ham. "Given that the effective masks are equipped with N95s, she certainly does not have to worry about my children if her child has the good equipment."
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"Jen, if for some reason you want to mask your children, you're still free to do so. This is not a ban on masks, this is a ban on * forced masking * of children against other parents' wishes," Fox News Contributor Mollie Hemingway wrote.
Fellow Fox News contributor Guy Benson tweeted: "Youngkin is governor. He beat your candidate. Data show that forced masking of children does not make schools safer, but there are established disadvantages for students in carrying them. If you want your child to to carry one forever, that's your prerogative. Other parents disagree. "
Arlington County announced that its mandate would continue shortly after Youngkin's order expired.
"The fact that that tweet came from Arlington County within minutes of my announcement what it tells me is that they have not listened to the parents yet," Youngkin told reporters Sunday. The executive order enters into force on 24 January.
Psaki was hit by an ethics complaint in October when she appeared to be in favor of Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia's gubernatorial race, saying, "We will do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in that agenda. , he represents. " An ethical watchdog said Psaki's comments appeared to have violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits officials from using their "official authority or influence for the purpose of disrupting or influencing the outcome of an election."
Biden and other National Democrats fought hard for McAuliffe, who sought another term after previously serving as Virginia governor from 2013 to 2017. Youngkin's two-point victory over McAuliffe in a state that Biden won comfortably in 2020 was seen as a scathing reprimand by Democrats and a sign of parental anger over coronavirus mandates and lockdowns.
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Fox News' Kim Anderson and Jon Brown contributed to this report.