Governors and mayors reignite the mask mandate debate in wake of CDC's newest guidance
The mask mandates are coming back -- and so, too, are mandates against mask mandates. © Spencer Platt/Getty Images People walk out of a store requesting that people wear masks on July 26, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Due to the rapidly spreading Delta variant, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that the city will require all city workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. Currently, about 54 percent of New Yorkers have taken the vaccine.
A modern-day lesson can be learned from what happened on May 1, 2003. Under a blue sky, then-President George W. Bush was nationally televised flying in a Navy fighter off the shores of San Diego, landing on an aircraft carrier displaying a massive banner with the words "Mission Accomplished" in red, white and blue. It was the mother of all photo-ops intended to send a message to the country, and the world, that the war, Operation Iraqi Freedom, was over. © Getty Images No one wants to say it: We need to mask up again
But the war wasn't over. It wound up lasting several more years. In our haste to spike the football, America declared victory too soon.
Capitol Police asked to arrest the maskless
Congressional aides and visitors to the House side of the Capitol will face arrest if they're not wearing masks, the head of the U.S. Capitol Police announced this week.In a Wednesday letter to his officer corps, Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger ordered that they enforce the new mask guidelines across the Capitol complex. Those new rules, installed by the Capitol physician earlier in the week, include a mask mandate on the House side of the Capitol and all House office buildings. The new policy has been hammered by House Republicans, who say it's merely an effort by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to exert control over half of the Capitol.
Eighteen years later, we find ourselves in an oddly familiar place. On May 13, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) optically declared the pandemic over when it lifted masking requirements and social distancing practices for the fully vaccinated. "We have all longed for this moment," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at the time. President Biden said it was a "great day for America." The decision was hailed by most Americans who had grown tired of wearing masks, yet many public health experts were concerned the move was premature.
Those experts were right, and many including former Surgeon General Jerome Adams are calling for a return to mask mandates. COVID-19 cases are surging, spiking 66 percent over the last week alone and up 145 percent from just two weeks ago. Eighty-three percent of new cases are the Delta variant, which the CDC director herself acknowledges is "highly transmissible." Statistics show hospitalizations up 26 percent last week (and more than 50 percent from two weeks ago), and deaths are up 13 percent. The numbers portray a nation in denial; we want to believe COVID-19 is behind us, but the facts tell a very different story. We need to put politics aside and let the data guide our policy decisions.
Denver Businesses With 95 Percent of Staff, Customers Vaccinated Exempt From Mask Mandate
Denver is imposing a new mask mandate Wednesday, citing rising COVID hospitalizations, with over 83 percent of those hospitalizations unvaccinated citizens.However, businesses that prove at least 95 percent of their employees and customers are fully vaccinated will not have to require masks. The order announced by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock mirrors similar orders announced by counties that cover Denver's suburbs recently.
Video: Cities with high COVID infection rates may need to 'reconsider' mask mandates: Dr. Rimoin (FOX News)
The alarming rise in cases makes a compelling argument for a renewed full-court push to highlight the importance of vaccinations and utilize the full complement of public health strategies in America. The majority of recent hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 (97 percent and 99.5 percent, respectively) involve the unvaccinated. Immunization remains the best protection against death and serious health impacts from COVID-19 infection. Mask-wearing, even by the vaccinated, is a valuable strategy to limit transmission of the virus.
The rise of the Delta variant clearly demonstrates that we are not in a post-pandemic world. As we've seen from recent reports, U.S. Olympic athletes, major league baseball players and Congressional staff members have all contracted the virus despite being vaccinated. What's more, new claims have surfaced that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may not be as effective in combating COVID-19 as initially believed. And anyone who contracts the virus is capable of transmitting it to others, giving COVID-19 the opportunity to continue to mutate.
House Republicans rage and disobey return of mask mandate: ‘Absolutely absurd’
Republican lawmakers on Wednesday protested against the House floor mask mandate being reinstituted the previous evening, with several members of the minority party refusing to wear a face covering and Texas Rep. Chip Roy using a legislative delay tactic to show discontent. © Provided by Washington Examiner "I can't execute my constitutional duty unless I wear a mask. Well, which is it? Vaccines or masks? The vaccines work or they don't work. Do the masks work, or they don't work?” Roy said in an impassioned speech on the House floor Wednesday referencing Dr. Anthony Fauci, a Biden administration COVID-19 point man.
No one wants to go back to wearing masks again. But people are dying, and if we can't voluntarily abide by the public health measures that we know to be effective at minimizing the spread of the pandemic, such as mask-wearing, state and federal mandates must be considered. We must deploy every method possible to reverse the current trend of infection. Continued social distancing, hand washing, increased testing - and yes mask-wearing - must be revisited to save lives and reduce suffering.
Some will say reinstating mask mandates only punishes the vaccinated. But that isn't a persuasive reason for the CDC to not reinstate a mask mandate. Public health professionals are in the business of following the science, and right now the science clearly shows that COVID-19 is winning and will kill thousands more unless we do everything in our power to fight it.
Leadership must come from the top. We need our elected officials - including Biden - to wear masks in public again to set an example for the rest of the nation. We are pretending that COVID-19 no longer exists, and in doing so we are actively complicit in fueling its resurgence. We are heading in the wrong direction; it will demand continued sacrifice, on all our parts, including masking, to get COVID-19 back under control.
Lyndon Haviland, DrPH, MPH, is a distinguished scholar at the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy.
Face masks again mandatory in England amid variant spread .
LONDON (AP) — New measures to combat the new omicron variant of coronavirus came into force in England Tuesday, with face coverings again compulsory in shops and on public transport. From Tuesday morning, all travelers returning to the U.K. must also take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. Previously they had been able to take a lateral flow test and there was no requirement to isolate. The reintroduction ofFrom Tuesday morning, all travelers returning to the U.K. must also take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. Previously they had been able to take a lateral flow test and there was no requirement to isolate.