(Washington) The outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic caused by the Delta variant is re-fueling the political controversy surrounding the mask in the United States, with some governors resisting any action despite recommendations from government sanitary facilities to make them mandatory.
Posted on Aug 11, 2021 at 7:22 am
Lucie AUBOURG Agence France-Presse
The confrontation has a touch of deja vu. At the beginning of the epidemic, the mask had quickly become a symbol of political affiliation in the country, then led by a Donald Trump, who made it an honor to show as little covered-face as possible.
A year later, at the start of the school year, the topic becomes particularly sensitive again.
“It’s the parents who have to decide,” hammered Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis again on Tuesday, banning schools in his state from wearing masks. “We will do everything in our power to enforce parental rights,” he added.
Several school districts have announced plans to challenge the governor’s order. In return, Ron DeSantis threatened to cut funding for rebel schools or even to cut the salaries of school officials involved in these decisions.
“That a governor has the authority to tell the school principals who want to impose the mask,” “You can’t do that,” I find completely counterintuitive and even hypocritical, “cracked Democratic President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
High virus circulation
In May, vaccinated Americans were able to say goodbye to the mask as health officials believed they could safely remove it. At the beginning of July, the country’s most important health authority (CDC) assured that this recommendation would also apply to vaccinated children in class at the beginning of the school year.
That counted without the highly contagious Delta variant. And inadequate vaccination coverage to avoid a major outbreak of the epidemic: only half of the American population is fully vaccinated. And children under the age of 12 are not eligible.
End of July Patatras: the mask is recommended again for vaccinated people indoors, in regions where the spread of the virus is important. According to the CDC classification, that is almost 90% of the country today.
Health officials highlight preliminary data showing that vaccinated people, if infected, could transmit the virus more with Delta than with other variants.
Many companies revise their rules. Number one in the United States, Walmart, re-writes masks on all of their employees two and a half months after the revocation for their vaccinated employees.
Put politics aside
The epidemic is currently particularly contagious in the south-east of the country. Right where the states are among the least vaccinated.
But “people who have not been vaccinated are also less likely to wear the mask,” Eric Cioe-Pena, public health expert at Northwell Health, told AFP. “We don’t have a buy-in from the people we just have to buy. ”
In Arkansas, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson imposed a mask on during the epidemic peak this winter. But as the cases dwindled, he eventually lifted them and, under pressure from a very conservative local government, signed a law prohibiting the re-imposition of such an obligation in the future.
“In retrospect, I wish it hadn’t become law,” he confided at a press conference in early August. On Monday, he was alerted on Twitter about the record number of hospital admissions, pointing out that the state only had eight beds available in the intensive care unit.
In Texas, as in Florida, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has banned schools from requiring masks. And again, several school districts announced that they would do it anyway. Same scenario in Arizona.
On the contrary, in New York or even in Illinois, Democratic States, all school children are required to wear a mask.
“We’re acting like there are two countries,” said AFP Nahid Bhadelia, director of the Center for Research on Emerging Infectious Diseases at Boston University. “But the sad thing is that it isn’t. Because what happens in the south of the country affects the north. ”
With unvaccinated children ending up in the same classroom and “if you take politics out of the scenario” […]to make this safer is to vaccinate everyone nearby and require that the mask be worn. ”