US coronavirus: Mask mandates are back on the table as Covid-19 surges nationwide
“We’ve got to trust our health officials to give the best advice they can at the time, and the CDC gave the best advice they could at the time,” he added. “But guess what? That was pre-Delta surge. The Delta variant is changing things.”
Thirty states have yet to fully vaccinate at least half of their residents, with Alabama and Mississippi at less than 35% fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
With numbers lagging, officials say more countermeasures against Covid-19 are likely needed.
Guidance on mask wearing from the CDC has not changed, but CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday localities may want to make their own call.
“Communities and individuals need to make the decisions that are right for them based on what’s going on in their local areas,” she said. “So if you’re an area that has a high case rate and low rates of vaccination where Delta cases are rising, you should certainly be wearing a mask if you are unvaccinated.”
Mask mandates are met with opposition
Amid the rising numbers of infections, some state and local leaders are now recommending that masks to be worn indoors even by those who are vaccinated.
Health officials in Seattle and King County in Washington noted Friday that the Delta variant’s prevalence in the US was 1.4% on May 13 when the CDC lifted mask requirements for vaccinated people. Right now, Delta makes up 56% of King County’s known infections and the figure is expected to rise.
“I know this is frustrating and maybe disappointing to many, it certainly is to me,” Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for the Seattle and King County public health department said Friday.
“And I acknowledged that the change in communication,” he said, “has been a real problem nationally, but we in public health have an obligation to be realistic about the changing situation and provide the best guidance possible.”
Missouri has one of the highest rates of average new daily cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
“The new rule will require everyone age five and over, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a mask. Wearing masks outdoors, especially in group settings, will be strongly encouraged,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office. Exceptions are included for those seated and eating at bars and restaurants.
“We’ve lost more than 500 St. Louisans to Covid-19, and if our region doesn’t work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems,” said Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the City of St. Louis.
However, Missouri State Attorney General Eric Schmitt said on Friday that he will be going to court to stop the requirement.
Officials elsewhere are also pushing back against proposed indoor mandates. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey encouraged people in his state to get the vaccine, thanking “the miracle of modern science” but reiterated that he will not allow vaccine or mask mandates.
In Texas, Austin Mayor Steve Adler says if he could “order all children and teachers to mask without ending up in court” he “would do it in a heartbeat,” as Austin Public Health reported the daily average number of Covid-19 hospitalizations has more than tripled since July 4.
Safety restrictions are instituted for new school year
With the new school year around the corner — and vaccine access only available to those over the age of 12 — some districts are preparing for a return to classes with mask mandates.
Washington DC Public Schools, Boston Public Schools, and Wisconsin’s Madison Metropolitan School District are among those that recently announced the requiring of masks worn by students and staff inside school buildings.
Yet other locales, such as Texas and Iowa, have prevented officials from exercising local control by requiring masks.
“California’s school guidance will be clarified regarding masking enforcement, recognizing local schools’ experience in keeping students and educators safe while ensuring schools fully reopen for in-person instruction,” read the update, which was released via a California Department of Public Health tweet.
CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Raja Razek, Chris Boyette, Roxanne Garcia, Deidre McPhillips, Carma Hassan, Cheri Mossburg and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.