Officials across the US are weighing again how and whether to enforce the mask mandate as COVID-19 infections climb and the American public becomes more prone to restrictions related to the pandemic.
Most of the debate centers around the country’s schools, some of which have closed due to staffing issues related to the transition. In many places, masked mandates are being raised or dropped.
The changes come as the federal government assesses the supply of medical-grade respirator face coverings, such as N95 or KN95 masks. During a briefing on Wednesday, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Ziants said officials were “strongly considering options to make more high-quality masks available to all Americans,” noting that Gov. There is a stock of over 750 million N95 masks.
“The best mask is the one you’ll wear and one you can keep on all day, one that you can tolerate in public indoor settings,” said Dr. Rochelle Valensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Monday, officials in Wyoming’s capital city voted to end a masked mandate for students and teachers that had been in place since September. The Cheyenne school district also eased COVID-19 isolation requirements, voting requiring that only people with symptoms and testing positive — not just those — stay at home for five days and wear a mask for five days thereafter. the wanted.
The governing board of the University of Missouri on Tuesday rejected the university system president’s request to temporarily require masks on the Columbia campus as well as a mandate for classrooms and laboratories.
A school board meeting in Wichita, Kansas, was canceled on Monday after three new members refused to wear masks for the swearing-in ceremony. Meanwhile, in the Topeka region, elected officials rejected a petition to make masks mandatory, urging people to be vigilant, but saying they were unprepared for a requirement.
Some jurisdictions are moving on their own to more stringent masking policies, including requiring high-grade mask materials.
Last week, the University of Arizona announced that it would require a medical-grade mask in indoor locations where social distancing is not possible. The school said on its website that it no longer considers cloth masks to be sufficient, although cloth masks may be worn over medical-grade masks to improve fit and increase protection.
A new indoor mask mandate goes into effect Wednesday in New Orleans, ahead of Mardi Gras season. Louisiana’s statewide coronavirus daily hospitalization number has increased sevenfold in three weeks — a spike that has strained hospitals, where emergency room waits sometimes exceed 12 hours, the city’s director of health, Dr. According to Jennifer Avegno.
Health officials in Omaha, Nebraska, announced a temporary mask mandate Tuesday, but the state has threatened to sue if the rule goes as planned. Omaha City Council President Pete Festerson said most of the council supported the move.
“It is not a decision that I have taken lightly. It was not an easy decision at all, and I know it is going to make some waves,” said Douglas County health director Lindsay Hughes. “But it is a tool which is in our toolbox. We have research, evidence showing that masks reduce transmission. ,
Elsewhere there was hesitation to bring back requirements that expired months ago. In Michigan, where state officials said record-high COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations could peak in late January or early February, health leaders reinstated restrictions or masking mandates. be reluctant to do so. They continue to urge people to get vaccinated, get a booster shot, wear well-fitted masks in public, and avoid large gatherings.
Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that people wear an N95 mask or two well-fitting face coverings. A parent group has called for school mask requirements, which are in place in most individual districts, but not at a statewide level.
In Utah, as lawmakers prepare to begin meeting for the year, GOP Governor Spencer Cox exempted the Capitol and other state facilities from municipal facade mandates. Salt Lake County Democratic Mayor Jenny Wilson said the governor does not have the authority to make exceptions to the policy, which requires N95 and KN95 or similar masks for one month in indoor spaces, including schools.
Associated Press Writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.
Subscribe to the bi-weekly newsletter to have health news sent straight to your inbox.