As Covid-19 cases rise, are mask mandates coming back?
As Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the United States, federal officials warned Wednesday that a third of Americans live in areas where indoor mask-wearing is recommended in public spaces. due to high case transmission. But amid warnings from health officials, many local leaders are reluctant to reinstate mask mandates.
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Health officials warn of Covid-19 surge
During a joint press briefing between CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, White House Covid-19 Coordinator Ashish Jha and Chief Medical Adviser to President Joe Biden Anthony Fauci, Walensky noted that Covid-19 cases have increased by 26% in the past week and that the seven-day average of Covid-19 hospitalizations had increased by 19% compared to the previous week.
Walensky also said that more than 32% of Americans currently live in an area with medium or high levels of coronavirus transmission – up from 24% the previous week – and urged local leaders “to encourage the use of prevention strategies such as masking in indoor public places and improving access to testing and treatment for individuals.”
During the briefing, Jha also warned that unless Congress provides additional funding for more Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, there will be “unnecessary loss of life” in the fall and winter.
According to Jha, the United States is lagging behind the rest of the world in procuring supplies for the next round of Covid-19 vaccines, and that manufacturing of Covid-19 home tests is slowing as the demand decreases.
Many domestic test makers are closing lines, laying off employees and will soon start selling equipment and preparing to halt test manufacturing altogether, Jha said. That could leave the United States dependent on other countries for supplies, which could lead to shortages during a surge, he warned.
Will mask mandates make a comeback?
In April, Philadelphia became the first major city to reinstate an indoor mask mandate after most Covid-19 precautions were lifted nationwide. However, he rescinded the mandate a few days later, citing “a decrease in hospitalizations and a leveling of the number of cases”.
Now, despite recent warnings from federal health officials, some local leaders are reluctant to reinstate mask mandates in their communities.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he has no plans to implement a mask mandate unless hospitals reach a “state of emergency” or evolve in that state. direction. “I’m proud of what we’re doing and how we’re not allowing Covid to outsmart us,” he said, adding that the city “stay prepared and don’t panic.”
“If every variation that comes, we go to shutdown thoughts, we go to panic, we’re not going to operate as a city,” Adams said.
New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan noted that much of the city is being vaccinated and recalls are increasing, adding that New York City has “a strong mask culture…where people take these precautions in the metro and inside”.
In Massachusetts, a group of public health officials, community organizers and infectious disease physicians sent a request Wednesday to Gov. Charlie Baker (R) asking his administration to restore mask mandates in public schools and in transport, and that the administration issue an “immediate notice” recommending the wearing of a mask in public spaces.
However, Baker said he has no plans to reinstate a mask mandate. “We think the best thing to do at this point is to get people to understand that vaccines work,” he said. “There are treatments that now work too.”
Baker added that his administration “certainly welcomes[s] people to wear masks, if they are caring for a loved one who has comorbidities or is immunocompromised or if they are dealing with someone who is over 65 or 70 years old.” (LaFraniere et al., New York Times, 5/198; Miller/Stobbe, Associated Press, 5/18; Aboutaleb, Washington Post, 5/18; Alsharif, CNN, 5/18; Lazar, boston globe, 5/18; Fitzsimmons, New York Times, 05/19; Rubinkam, Associated Press04/21)