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.”

Officials in St. Louis, Missouri, have gone one step further by instituting an indoor mask mandate at public settings beginning on Monday, joining Los Angeles County as one of the first areas in the country to reinstate such measures.

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.

“The citizens of St. Louis and St. Louis County are not subjects — they are free people. As their Attorney General I’ll be filing suit Monday to stop this insanity,” Schmitt said in a statement on Twitter.

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.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, however, issued an executive order in May prohibiting state governmental entities such as counties from requiring mask-wearing.

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