Officials in New York City this week reportedly urged residents to wear masks in public as a new strain of Covid-19 continues to spread throughout the country, while some hospitals and schools have also reimplemented mask mandates, though medical experts say masking requirements might not last long, and might not be necessary for the entire population.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan this week warned the virulent Ba.2.86 variant is “likely to evade immunity that has developed from vaccination or prior infection,” while a city health official told the Daily Mail it would be a “good idea” to mask up in crowded indoor places over the holiday weekend.
In Atlanta, Morris Brown College—a historically Black university—implemented a two-week mask mandate for all students and faculty last week as students move back on campus, also re-imposing social distancing amid “reports of positive cases among students.”
California-based healthcare facility Kaiser Permanente reinstated its mask mandate at its facilities in Santa Rosa, California last week “amid an uptick in patients testing positive,” while in New York, a group of hospitals also imposed mask mandates, including United Health Services, Auburn Community Hospital and University Hospital in Syracuse, New York.
In Santa Monica, California, Hollywood studio Lionsgate also requested employees wear masks in certain parts of its facilities in response to a rise in cases last month.
A mask mandate is also in effect in San Francisco for healthcare workers when around patients, as well as for employees at jails.
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Officials have been torn on mask mandate policies since the start of the pandemic, while studies have found mandates might not be a guaranteed safeguard from community-wide spread. George Washington University Dr. Leana Wen told CNN this week the decision to mask up also depends on an array of factors, including a person’s age and whether they’re at high risk of contracting the virus—she also said children in schools who are at low risk should not be required to mask up. When asked about Labor Day weekend precautions, Wen added people who didn’t cancel their plans last year probably don’t need to cancel them either, despite cases being on the rise.
Vaccine boosters from drugmakers Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax are expected to be ready for use later this month and widely available in October, though they are still pending Food and Drug Administration approval. Those boosters, unlike their predecessors, target newer coronavirus strains, including the Eris strain and other XBB subvariants, adding to Americans’ arsenal to combat Covid, though only 17% of Americans have received the current bivalent booster shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
15,067. That’s the number of Covid hospitalizations in the U.S. over the week ending August 19, an increase of 18.8% from the week before, according to CDC data. More than 6.27 million people in the U.S. have been hospitalized since the outbreak of the pandemic more than three years ago.
Despite the rise in cases, Republican lawmakers have slammed Covid mask mandates, with Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) swearing off potential mask orders, saying, “MIssissippians will not and should not submit to fear again.” In a video posted on his social media platform Truth Social, former President Donald Trump argued mask mandates amounts to “fear mongering,” calling lawmakers “Covid tyrants,” and vowing: “We will not shut down our schools, we will not accept your lockdowns, we will not abide by your mask mandates and we will not tolerate your vaccine mandate.”