Mask mandates are not making a comeback despite pleas from public health experts

Mask mandates are not making a comeback despite pleas from public health experts

Mask mandates are not making a comeback despite pleas from public health experts

A protective face mask lies on the sidewalk in New York City on October 26. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Mask mandates are not making a comeback despite pleas from public health experts

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WASHINGTON-Coronavirus infection rates rose steadily throughout Los Angeles County for the first half of November and then began to rise sharply around the Thanksgiving long weekend.

As a result, the county’s Director of Public Health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, on December 1, made an announcement that some had hoped for and others feared: an indoor mask mandate could come back for the county’s 10 million residents.

“LA County will follow CDC guidelines for communities designated at the ‘high community level,’ including universal indoor masking.” said Ferrerreferring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose guidelines local and state officials typically use when making decisions about masking.

In laying out her case, Ferrer cited not only COVID-19, but also influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which caused a viral blizzard that some refer to as a “triple disease”.

Three weeks later, Los Angeles remains vacant.

A woman with a blue face mask stands next to another woman without a face mask.

Travelers wearing face masks wait in line to check in at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. (Jae C Hong/AP)

Certainly many people continue to mask themselves. But like other public health officials across the country, Ferrer chose not to mandate, leaving the masking a matter of personal choice.

The reluctance to introduce new mandates has frustrated some public health experts, who believe the anti-mask rhetoric itself has many Democrats fearing a measure that could halt the spread of the coronavirus and other diseases. And with hundreds of people still dying every day from COVID-19, they argue that the lack of mask requirements in crowded spaces only puts people at risk.

“The science of universal masking hasn’t changed — COVID is airborne, and masks reduce spread,” said a Boston University public health expert Julia Raifman said Yahoo News. “Rational, data-driven approaches to mask guidelines when and where state or local surges occur could help stem the transmission of COVID and other respiratory diseases that are currently overwhelming children’s hospitals.”

The nation is now recording 48,000 new coronavirus infections and 450 new COVID-19 deaths per day. Those numbers are well below those in the darkest days of the pandemic, before the advent of vaccines and therapeutics, but they suggest the pandemic is not over.

Proponents of masking say that with heavy travel expected over the next few weeks and people gathering for indoor gatherings, masking makes as much sense now as it ever did, especially with Strained hospital capacity in parts of the country.

A man wearing a face mask, surrounded by a few others, looks out a window at a body of water.

A man wearing a face mask rides the Staten Island Ferry in New York Harbor on October 24. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

“That’s a small price to pay,” said Dr. Vin Gupta on a recent MSNBC appearance.

So far, however, only a few municipalities or districts are willing to pay them. Philadelphia will make masks mandatory in schools when the students return from the winter holidays. school officials in Sacramento, California, considered bringing back the masking earlier in December, but not yet.

Oakland, California, has imposed a mask requirement in government buildings – but not in other interiors. Private companies are of course free to make masks mandatory, but many may be reluctant to do so without the power of a government decree to back up their decision.

In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams appeared in a mask at a press conference related to the pandemic on Wednesday. He and the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, both asked New Yorkers to put their masks back on – but they didn’t order it.

Manhattan restaurants were packed all last weekend, as were other entertainment venues. Subways were overcrowded. Bars were full. And while masks weren’t uncommon, they were hardly universal, especially when it came to eating and drinking.

Public fatigue in the face of the pandemic would likely make enforcing a new mandate more difficult, potentially putting bus drivers, fast-food workers and others in the undesirable position of trying to get the unwilling to dress up again.

“The data on masking to reduce transmission is pretty lousy,” says Dr. Lucy McBride, a Washington, DC physician who writes a newsletter about medicine. “And even if the data shows that masks always work perfectly (which they don’t), we have to consider the potential downsides of covering faces,” she told Yahoo News.

Several dozen people in winter-weather gear stand or walk outside, some wearing face masks.

People with masks in New York City on December 12. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

“I tell my patients who want to protect themselves to mask if they want to because a single-use mask has been shown to protect the wearer,” McBride said.

Studies on masks are controversial (Boston University health expert Raifman points out Data shows the mask policy is effective). For one thing, it is notoriously difficult to reproduce real-world conditions in a laboratory. Some people wear masks incorrectly without fully covering their nose and mouth. Others wear cloth masks that are ineffective. Even the ubiquitous surgical masks offer much less protection than the bowl-shaped N-95 respirators, which — when properly fitted and worn regularly — offer the best protection.

“Politics aside, if people wore the right masks the right way, mask mandates would help prevent Covid. If not, they won’t work,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, Chair of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, recently wrote on Twitter.

Proponents of masking cite the possibility of a long COVID – a debilitating and poorly understood condition – as well as vaccination rates largely stagnant in recent months, with only modest uptake of the bivalent booster. Masking, they say, is the surest way to protect vulnerable people, including the immunocompromised and the elderly.

“Officials often like to accuse the public of being too tired of masks, but the data tells us that’s simply not true. Even nearly three years into the pandemic, polls consistently show that a majority of people in the US support mask mandates, particularly in communities of color.” dr Lucky Tranan outspoken supporter of prudent handling of the pandemic, Yahoo News said in an email.

Parents in Boston recently petitioned local education officials to restore a mandate. They argued that just making a choice for masking is not enough. “There has to be some sort of mandate that people have to abide by.” said one of these parents.

So far, however, neither they nor like-minded Americans elsewhere have had much success convincing officials. White House officials say they fully support masking as a key tool in the fight against COVID-19 but claim vaccination is the superior weapon against the virus.

President Biden is shot in the arm with her sleeve rolled up by a woman wearing rubber gloves and a face mask.

President Biden will receive the latest COVID-19 booster shot on October 25. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

In a recent interview with NPRCDC Director Rochelle Walensky said communities with high virus spread should “wear masks.”

But, she added, “we’ve certainly always said that masking is a personal choice.”

That is not completely right. Walensky and other Biden administration officials were assiduously masquerading in 2021 — and urging Americans to do so. But by early 2022, even some Democratic governors were jaded by the pandemic restrictions.

They wanted schools to reopen, stadiums to be packed – and masks to be taken off.

In late February, the CDC issued new guidelines that indeed made it much easier for officials to justify not wearing masks. Then, just a few weeks later, a court verdict dejected Masks are compulsory on airplanes and other forms of travel.

Since then, officials in the Biden administration have spoken little about masks. West Wing officials now only wear them sporadically, if at all. That includes President Biden, who has traveled extensively in recent months and held holiday receptions at the White House. Masks were also a rarity at these receptions.

at a recent White House press briefingbecame Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s top pandemic adviser, asked why the administration isn’t doing more to emphasize masking ahead of the holiday season.

“We have multiple interventions and multiple actions we can take to protect ourselves. So there’s a whole spectrum,” Fauci replied. “Masking is one of them.”

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