- Amid concerns about the Delta variant and rising COVID-19 infections, mask mandates are reemerging.
- St. Louis County and Los Angeles County both recently revived their mandates.
- The policies have prompted backlash, including lawsuit threats and refusals to enforce them.
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Local mask mandates are reemerging as the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues spreading throughout the United States, driving up infection and hospitalization rates.
In Missouri, St. Louis and St. Louis County became the latest to adopt new public health orders requiring people to wear masks in indoor public spaces – whether they’re vaccinated or not. The new rules begin Monday.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County reinstated its indoor mask mandate on July 17, citing a rapid uptick in new infections.
The mandates have in some cases provoked outrage. Missouri’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt, even announced on Twitter he intended to file a lawsuit Monday to stop the mandate.
“The citizens of St. Louis and St. Louis County are not subjects – they are free people,” he said.
California officials have also rebelled against the Los Angeles County mask mandate, with one town councilman calling the mandate “BS” and saying the town would not enforce it, according to The Washington Post.
“We have had enough of these policies! We demand that you stop this one-size-fits-all approach to health and health outcomes,” elected officials from multiple towns wrote in a letter to their local county supervisor, The Post reported. “We implore you to modify this recent order, engage with us, and set a policy that better reflects the unique context of our area.”
But health officials and experts have pushed back against their critics, saying they’re at a loss for how else to prevent the spread of the Delta variant – particularly given the lagging vaccination rates.
“We’ve lost more than 500 St. Louisans to COVID-19, and if our region doesn’t work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems,” St. Louis’ acting director of health, Dr. Fredrick Echols, said in a statement.
Even the former US Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, said Friday that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should rethink its guidance saying vaccinated people can go maskless.
The guidance “was putting trust in the American people to really do the right thing, but unfortunately people chose to go out and pull their mask off, whether they were vaccinated or not,” Adams told CNN.
He continued: “We’ve got to trust our health officials to give the best advice they can at the time, and the CDC gave the best advice they could at the time. But guess what? That was pre-Delta surge. The Delta variant is changing things.”