WASHINGTON, D.C. – After well over a year of pandemic-related isolation, lockdowns, mask-mandates, social distancing and vaccinations, it’s safe to say that most people are ready to put COVID-19 behind them and move on with their normal lives. Unfortunately – to the potential ire of many – that may not be allowed to happen quite yet, as health officials and politicians are currently engaging in debates over the new Delta variant of COVID-19 and whether or not mandatory mask mandates should be put back in place to help curb its spread.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and the president’s chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci are set to testify today at a Senate hearing – held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee – about how to combat the Delta variant, including the possibility of reinstituting mask mandates.
At the hearing, which is currently ongoing, Fauci emphasized in his opening remarks the importance of being vaccinated, noting that it is “the most powerful tool we have” and that it is “very effective” against the Delta variant.
The hearing, titled “The Path Forward,” is meant to chart the rough waters that will lead the United States out of the final days of the pandemic; however, the Delta variant has many health officials worried and in favor of taking steps back in terms of preventative measures, leading to conflicts with public officials who are pushing back hard against them.
On Friday, Los Angeles County shockingly instituted a new indoor mask mandate, whether people are vaccinated or not. In addition, former Surgeon General Jerome Adams of the Trump Administration said on Saturday that the CDC’s May announcement that vaccinated individuals no longer needed to be masked in most situations was wrong; that he now believes that vaccinated people should still be wearing masks to protect themselves and others.
“Instead of vax it OR mask it, the emerging data suggests CDC should be advising to vax it AND mask it in areas with [increasing] cases and positivity- until we see numbers going back down again,” Adams tweeted.
“No. No. No. Hell NO,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in a reply to Adams.
The governors of several states have also made statements this week, voicing their opposition to the possibility of mask mandates, including Henry McMaster of South Carolina Governor and Jay Inslee of Washington.
While the subject of mask mandates has not yet been addressed at today’s hearing, Dr. Fauci did make waves on Monday when he agreed with the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children aged 3 years and older – vaccinated or not – should wear masks when schools reopen, calling it a “reasonable thing to do.”