Pro-maskers Could Be Eyeing Return of COVID Restrictions A product stall filled with free N95 respirator masks, provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sits outside the pharmacy at a Jackson, Mississippi, Kroger grocery store on Feb. 2. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
By Charlie McCarthy | Thursday, 19 May 2022 09:15 AM
Mask mandate proponents again are encouraging officials to impose facial covering requirements as COVID-19 cases increase around the U.S.
Top health officials spoke on Wednesday, when the White House held its first COVID-19 Response Team briefing in nearly two months.
It was the first such briefing under new response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, a longtime supporter of mandates, the Daily Caller reported.
During the press briefing, officials warned that a third of Americans live in areas where the threat of COVID had increased to where they should consider wearing a mask in indoor public settings.
Those warnings seemed to be contrary to President Joe Biden's stance, which more closely resembles that of most Americans, who have moved on from mask-wearing and other mandates to prevent COVID infection, The New York Times reported.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the seven-day average of hospital admissions from COVID rose 19% over the previous week.
She encouraged local leaders in high-risk areas — mostly in the northeast — to "encourage the use of prevention strategies like masking in public indoor settings."
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine has called on New York City Mayor Eric Adams to reinstate an indoors mask mandate — something Adams so far has refused to do.
"I'm proud of what we are doing and how we are not allowing COVID to outsmart us," Adams said during a Wednesday news conference, CNN reported. "We're staying prepared and not panicking.
"Variants are going to come. If every variant that comes, we move into shutdown thoughts, we move into panicking, we're not going to function as a city."
Nevertheless, New York City requires toddlers to be masked at school. Apple has reinstated mask mandates at 100 of its stores, and Trump-era Surgeon General Jerome Adams has encouraged people to prepare for an oncoming surge by getting high-quality masks, the Daily Caller said.
A group of doctors taking part in a Massachusetts Coalition for Health Equity virtual event on Wednesday pushed for stronger mask advisories and mandates as COVID cases continue to rise, NBC Boston reported.
"We want to urge the Department of Public Health to immediately issue an advisory, basically saying that, that the public should be wearing masks indoors and avoiding large gatherings," Dr. Lara Jirmanus of Harvard Medical School said.
Earlier this month, health officials restated their recommendation that Americans wear masks on planes, trains, and buses, despite a court ruling in April that struck down a national mask mandate on public transportation.
Walensky said that nearly 3,000 people daily were being hospitalized, although death rates, a lagging indicator, remained low.
The Biden administration on Monday chose not to end the ongoing public health emergency in place for the pandemic, which had been set to expire July 15.