More states, cities hit citizens with mask mandates amid delta spread: 'We are all still in danger'

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Even more states and cities are implementing mask mandates as the delta coronavirus variant spreads – while officials warn of “dark days ahead” and lament that citizens won’t “‘grow up and do what they’re supposed to do” by getting a vaccine. 

The most notable universal indoor mask mandates this week come from Philadelphia and Oregon. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced Wednesday that the city is implementing an indoor mask mandate effective Thursday. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a mask mandate Wednesday to take effect Friday. 

“Masks are simple and they are effective. Wearing a mask should give you confidence that you are not infecting others,” Brown said at a Wednesday press conference. “Masks are also our best bet at keeping our schools and our businesses open.”

“The pandemic is far from over. It’s a disappointing reminder that we still have dark days ahead. Until more people get vaccinated, we are all still in danger,” she said. 

People who are vaccinated are almost certainly not in danger from COVID-19. The coronavirus vaccines are extremely effective at preventing nearly all severe illness, hospitalization and death, even in the case of “breakthrough” infections. In the vast majority of states, vaccinated people make up less than 1% of hospitalized coronavirus patients, according to the New York Times. 

Brown said part of the reason she decided to implement a mask mandate was out of exasperation with local officials who wouldn’t. Multnomah County, where Portland is, imposed a mandate that is also effective Friday. But, Brown said, “for the most part local elected officials were not willing to make the tough decisions.”

Kenney expressed his own kind of exasperation Wednesday, but at individual citizens rather than other officials. He said people who aren’t getting vaccinated are to blame for his mask mandate decision. 

“I’m upset that people just can’t act in the way they’re supposed to act and do what’s good for everybody,” he said, regarding vaccinations. “This amazes me that this is the most simple thing to do… and people still refuse to do it… it’s a shame.”

Kenney further said that any future lockdowns in his city would also be the fault of the unvaccinated. 

“Not if everybody acts like a mature adult and does what they’re supposed to do, we don’t anticipate a lockdown,” he said. “People just have to grow up and do what they’re supposed to do.”

Philadelphia also imposed a requirement on city employees that they either get vaccinated or will be forced to wear two masks while at work. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks with reporters at Carl B. Munck Elementary School, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Oakland, Calif. (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)
(Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)

Oregon joined Hawaii and Louisiana as states with mask mandates regardless of vaccination. Philadelphia joins several major cities that have already reinstituted indoor mask mandates, including Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Berkeley, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. 

Other cities that brought back mask mandates in the past week include Little Rock, Arkansas, and Baltimore, Maryland. 

“This pandemic is not over and we must all do our due diligence to protect ourselves and our neighbors,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said last week. 

Baltimore Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa added that the delta variant “poses a serious threat to our unvaccinated residents.” 

“I’m speaking to you not just as the health commissioner but as a mother of a child that is too young to be vaccinated,” she said. 

The coronavirus, however, does not pose a serious threat to unvaccinated young children. In fact, in the final two weeks of July, only 3.5% and 3.2% of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus were under age 17, according to CDC data. The majority of COVID-19 patients in hospitals are still over 50 and nearly all of such patients are not vaccinated. 

Another place with a new mask mandate is Danbury, Connecticut. Beginning Aug. 15, that city will require “all individuals… to wear masks or cloth face coverings at all times while in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.”

These city and statewide mask mandates are in addition to the increasingly common – and very controversial – school mask mandates being ordered for both universities and primary schools. 

Princeton announced an indoor mask mandate on Wednesday, according to The Daily Princetonian. Penn State announced a similar mandate earlier this month. 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, joined many other governors this week in requiring masks in schools – a decision that prompted one school superintendent to call him a “liberal lunatic,” according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

There are still many places around the country that aren’t mandating masks, however. Those are mainly red states and cities, especially places like Florida and Texas. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, for example, signed an executive order banning mask mandates. And Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that he will vigorously defend that order from any court challenges. 

But some Democratic areas are also reluctant to implement mask mandates – most notably Boston and New York City. Boston Mayor Kim Janey is vigorously resisting vaccine mandates and is strongly encouraging citizens to wear masks, according to the Boston Herald. But she is not mandating them anywhere but schools. 

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, conversely, has embraced vaccine mandates. But like Janey, he has been cool to the idea of blanket mask mandates. De Blasio has said the vaccine is a much more powerful tool to fight the coronavirus than a mask. 

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