US mask, COVID-19 vaccine mandates in question

Mecklenburg County / Flickr cc

Some states, cities, and national public health officials are posing the possibility of reinstating mask mandates as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the United States. And businesses and organizations are struggling with the question of vaccine mandates as the Delta (B1617.2) variant shows no sign of slowing down. 

Yesterday on CNN, Anthony Fauci, MD, White House chef medical adviser, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discussed the use of masks for even vaccinated individuals when indoors. 

"We're seeing that in LA. We're seeing that in Chicago. We're seeing that in New Orleans," Fauci said on CNN. "The officials there, many of them are saying even if you are vaccinated, it's prudent to wear a mask indoors."

Fauci, echoing CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, last week said the current surge is a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."

Almost all COVID-19 deaths are in unvaccinated people, and the United States has yet to make significant strides toward the Jul 4 goal of vaccinating 70% of adults with at least one dose. The daily number of new vaccine recipients is now what it was in late January. 

According to the CDC, only 20 states have vaccinated at least 50% of their population. The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows that 394,948,975 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States, and 341,818,968 have been administered, with 49.1% of Americans fully vaccinated (56.8% have received at least one dose).

The United States reported 14,637 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, according to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker. The 7-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases is 51,939, with 269 daily deaths. There are 30,475 hospitalized COVID patients.

New hot spots across the nation 

Across the country, local leaders are grappling with new COVID-19 activity. 

On Cape Cod, Provincetown officials issued an indoor mask mandate after a cluster triggered by Fourth of July visitors now tops 551 infections in people from multiple states. 

Health officials in St. Louis announced Friday that they will reinstate a mask mandate for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents alike, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Beginning today, masks will be required on public transport and indoor public places for all people 5 and older. 

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have tripled within St. Louis in the last 6 weeks. 

Arizona is also experiencing a new surge in activity, as yesterday marked the seventh consecutive day of 1,000 or more new cases. Yesterday, Arizona reported 1,508 new COVID-19 cases, the Associated Press reports. 

Florida is reporting more new COVID-19 cases than any other state, and the number of people hospitalized in some parts of the state is rising at a faster rate than in previous waves, according to the Wall Street Journal

Model predicts Delta surge to peak in October 

A new model suggests that the current surge of activity will continue to gain momentum and peak in October, with around 60,000 cases and 850 deaths each day. 

The COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, which uses 10 possible models to make predictions, assumes the variant is 60% more transmissible and that only 70% of the US population will be vaccinated. 

Amid the dire predictions, the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, and 55 other medical groups have written a joint statement calling for mandatory vaccination of all US healthcare personnel against the coronavirus, the Washington Post reports.

"Unfortunately, many health care and long-term care personnel remain unvaccinated. As we move towards full [Food and Drug Administration] approval of the currently available vaccines, all health care workers should get vaccinated for their own health, and to protect their colleagues, families, residents of long-term care facilities and patients," the statement reads. "This is why many health care and long-term care organizations already require vaccinations for influenza, hepatitis B, and pertussis.”

And the New York Times broke the story today that the Department of Veterans Affairs will require 115,000 frontline healthcare workers to be vaccinated against the virus. This is the first federal agency to require COVID-19 vaccination.

Though vaccine mandates could be enacted by the federal government for the military, the Biden administration has yet to do so. Full authorization from the FDA will make it easier for businesses and organizations to require vaccinations.

This week's top reads