ORLANDO, Florida – One of the Republican Party’s most prominent rising stars is mocking new government recommendations calling for more widespread use of masks to dampen a wave of coronavirus.
“Didn’t you get the memo from the CDC?” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis joked Wednesday to an almost entirely unmasked audience of activists and lawmakers crammed into an indoor ballroom of a Salt Lake City hotel. “I don’t see you obeying. “
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From Texas to South Dakota, Republican leaders have responded with hostility and defiance to updated masking guidelines from public health officials, which advise that even fully vaccinated people return to wear masks indoors if they live in. areas with a high rate of virus transmission. The backlash reopened the crop war over pandemic restrictions just as efforts to persuade unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated appeared to be making headway.
Driven by former President Donald Trump, the response reflects the deep resistance by many GOP voters to restrictions aimed at containing a virus they say poses a minimal personal threat. The party is also exploiting growing frustration and confusion over ever-changing rules and directions.
But the resistance has real implications for a country desperate to emerge from the pandemic. Beyond vaccinations, there are few tools other than mask wearing and social distancing to contain the spread of the delta variant, which studies have shown to be far more contagious than the original strain.
However, many Republican leaders are blocking preventative measures, potentially making it harder to bring virus outbreaks under control in conservative communities.
At least 18 Republican-led states have moved to ban vaccine passports or ban public entities from requiring proof of vaccination. And some have banned schools from requiring any student or teacher to wear a mask or be vaccinated.
In its announcement, the CDC cited disturbing new research – so far unpublished – that found that fully vaccinated people can spread the delta variant just like the unvaccinated, putting those who did not receive the vaccines or who have a compromised immune system to escalate risk. The CDC also recommended that all teachers, staff and students wear masks inside school buildings, regardless of their immunization status.
The backlash was swift.
“We will not be going back. We will not mask our children, ”said Trump, who regularly questioned the value of wearing a mask and rarely wore one in public during his tenure. “Why are Democrats wary of science? “
Missouri Governor Mike Parson called the new guidelines “disappointing and concerning” and “inconsistent with the overwhelming evidence surrounding the effectiveness of vaccines and their proven results.”
He, like others, warned that the measure would undermine efforts to encourage vaccinees to get vaccinated by casting further doubt on the effectiveness of approved vaccines, which have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of death or illness. hospitalization, despite the occurrence of a breakthrough. case.
Last week, White House officials reported that vaccination rates were on the rise in some states where COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing, as more Republican leaders pleaded with their constituents to put aside persistent doubts and getting vaccinated to protect yourself. That includes Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who has pleaded with unvaccinated residents, saying they are the ones who “let us down.”
“This self-inflicted setback encourages skepticism and reluctance towards vaccination at a time when the goal is to prevent serious illness and death from COVID-19 through vaccination,” Parson tweeted. “This decision only promotes fear and division among our citizens.”
The announcement “will unfortunately only decrease confidence in the vaccine and create more challenges for public health officials?” people who have worked tirelessly to increase immunization rates, ”echoed Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who has banned masks and vaccines in his state.
In his speech on Wednesday, DeSantis took particular interest in the CDC’s call for children to wear masks in class.
“It’s not healthy for these students to be sitting there all day, 6-year-olds in kindergarten wearing masks,” he said – although there is no evidence that wearing masks is harmful to children older than toddlers.
And in South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem called the CDC for changing its stance on “AGAIN” masking. She said those worried about the virus can get vaccinated, wear a mask or stay at home, but that “changing CDC guidelines does not help ensure public confidence.”
On Capitol Hill, some Republicans revolted after the Capitol attending physician sent a note advising members that masks should again be worn inside the House at all times.
The change sparked a round robin of insults, with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy a “moron” after McCarthy tweeted: “The threat to bring back masks is not a science-based decision, but an evoked decision. by representatives of the Liberal government who want to continue living in a state of perpetual pandemic. “
The warrant also sparked an angry confrontation, as Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Verbally assaulted Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, who walked out of the House chamber and walked past her without speaking. cover the face.
The Tories also forced a vote to adjourn the chamber in protest against the mandate, which was defeated mainly on the basis of parties.
“We have a crisis at our border, and we play football with mask mandates in the People’s House,” railed Representative Chip Roy, R-Texas, the sponsor of the motion. “The American people are fed up. They want to come back to life. They want to get back into business. They want to go back to school without their children having to wear masks.
The country records an average of nearly 62,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day, and the vast majority of those hospitalized and dying have not been vaccinated. As of Sunday, 69% of American adults had received a dose of the vaccine and 60% had been fully immunized, according to the CDC.
When the pandemic began last year, public health officials told Americans that masks offered little protection against the virus (and could even increase the risk of infection). The advice was prompted by a lack of knowledge about how the new virus spread and a desire to save limited mask supplies for medical workers. But the CDC quickly changed course and advised Americans to wear masks indoors and outdoors if they were within 6 feet of each other.
Then, in April of this year, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency relaxed its guidelines, saying fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks outside unless they are were found in large crowds of strangers. In May, the guidelines were relaxed further, saying fully vaccinated people could safely stop wearing masks outside in crowds and in most indoor environments.
Subsequent guidelines from the CDC said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks in schools.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s senior deputy press secretary, defended the changes on Wednesday, saying the CDC “did exactly what it was supposed to do.”
“The CDC needs to adapt to the virus,” she said, “and sadly because not enough Americans stepped up to get vaccinated, they had to provide new guidance to help save lives. “
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