As experts panic about the risk posed by the Delta variant, LA County's infamous Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer last night decided to revive LA's indoor-mask policy, requiring all individuals - including the vaccinated - to wear masks at gyms, restaurants, bars, supermarkets and - importantly - schools.
Setting aside the issue of whether the Delta variant poses a serious threat to the public health of California (available evidence would suggest that it doesn't), the CDC released guidelines earlier this month for schools across the US for deciding how to handle COVID prevention policies including masking.
The Feds said that while vaccinated teachers and vaccinated students be allowed to go mask-less, the unvaccinated should be required to wear masks. It also recommended that schools track the vaccination status of their employees and students.
Unsurprisingly, these guidelines have proven politically unpopular in a group of western and southern states, which have decided to pass laws bucking the federal requirements and making it illegal for schools to ask about students vaccination status. The list includes eight states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.
Meanwhile, at least three states - Arizona, Arkansas and Oklahoma - have made it illegal to require students or staff to wear masks in schools. According to WSJ, critics are concerned the bans could lead to more cases of the virus as the number of new cases reported over the last week has doubled from the 7-day average three weeks ago. Supporters say the law allows families to make their own decisions.
Republican state Sen. Trent Garner , the author of Arkansas' law, said vaccination requirements and mask requirements Calling vaccination and were "one of the most contentious issues in Arkansas." He says he stands by the law regardless of the Federal guidelines.
"Ultimately, the best form of local control is the individual, and each individual family can make that decision," he said.
In June, Arizona passed laws banning vaccine and mask mandates at schools and colleges starting this fall after Arizona State University announced that unvaccinated students would be expected to wear masks. Now, the university system says it will obey the new law.
According to the CDC, nearly all recent deaths from COVID are among the unvaccinated (though Israel is seeing rising deaths among fully vaccinated patients).
Schools and colleges across the US are generally planning to bring most or all students back to school for in-person instruction.
However, "conservative" southern states aren't the only ones pushing back against mandatory mask orders. Parents of students at NYC private schools are protesting mandatory mask requirements, arguing that wearing masks does little to protect from COVID when a student is indoors and in close proximity to others for an extended period.
The parents also argued that the masks can impede the students ability to learn. One parent told WSJ that "they're so dehydrated, and on hot days, they come ut sweaty and exhausted, and they have headaches." Teachers unions, on the other hand, are worried that dropping the requirements could put its members at risk. Unsurprisingly, the parents aren't thrilled about the teachers' union's position.
"Kids don’t have unions," she said. "Kids have their parents, who are trying to hold things together and plan their future. And parents are fractured all over the place."
Most of the state laws allow for exceptions in the event of an "emergency."
As for the LA mask order, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former director of the FDA under President Trump, told CNBC Friday morning that "I don't think it's the right move." "I don't think you can tell people who've been vaccinated that they have to wear a mask.... People who are worried about Covid have largely been vaccinated."
"We're probably never going to know ... but my hunch is that an unvaccinated individual introduced it to that setting," @ScottGottliebMD on how #covid19 got into the Yankees clubhouse. pic.twitter.com/GuduIx3su1— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) July 16, 2021
In the adult world, JPM and Goldman are reportedly ordering all their British staffers to wear face masks when they return to the office on July 19 - a decision that will almost certainly frustrate the bank's workers, who are already extremely miffed about returning to the office to begin with.