Ted Cruz calls for 'zero' covid-19 mandates, while Rand Paul urges defiance amid delta variant surge

UNITED STATES - JULY 28: Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., right, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are seen during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee markup in Dirksen Building on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) (Tom Williams via Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON - As a resurgent coronavirus is forcing states to address soaring cases and hospitalizations, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) denounced health mandates against the virus at a time when the United States recorded its highest single-day number of new cases since January.

The United States reported nearly 160,000 cases on Monday, pushing the seven-day average to almost 115,000 daily, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. It was the most severe day for new cases in the country since Jan. 29, when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available. Hospitalizations are also up to nearly 70,000 as businesses and schools grapple with mandates for vaccinations and masks during the fourth wave of the pandemic.

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But Cruz said to Fox News host Sean Hannity that no health regulations are needed to help curb a nationwide surge fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant and the millions who remain unvaccinated.

"There should be no mandates - zero - concerning covid," Cruz said. "That means no mask mandates, regardless of your vaccination status. That means no vaccine mandates. That means no vaccine passports."

Cruz's call for no covid mandates of any kind came hours after he and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., introduced two bills that would ban mask and vaccine mandates. The bills would countermand recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends people wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.

With just half the country fully vaccinated, the White House has taken a more aggressive approach in recent weeks in pushing Americans to get inoculated. President Biden has told federal employees they must get vaccinated or they will have to wear masks and maintain social distance at work, and he has directed the military to examine similar steps. As The Post's Annie Linskey reported, the Biden administration is in the early stages of reviewing whether to use federal regulatory power, or the threat of withholding funds, as added ways to get private entities to require vaccines.

Texas, Cruz's home state, is seeing a rise in new infections that is now limiting the availability of hospital beds. A Houston hospital system is preparing huge tents to treat an overflow of patients, while a doctor there said intensive care units in the city resembled a "war zone." The state is averaging more than 13,500 new cases a day, trailing only Florida.

Yet Cruz accused Biden, without evidence, of "imposing unscientific and burdensome mandates."

"Thanks to vaccinations and the natural immunity of Americans who have recovered from covid-19, America is reopening," Cruz said. "America is recovering, our kids are going back to school, and small businesses are returning as our nation's economic heartbeat."

Cruz joined Paul in denouncing mandates amid a resurgence in cases and hospitalizations. The Kentucky senator - who has fashioned himself as the Senate's chief skeptic of Anthony S. Fauci, the country's top infectious-diseases doctor - released a video Sunday that urged people to resist the regulations implemented by health experts and elected officials to help prevent the spread of the deadly delta variant.

"It's time for us to resist. They can't arrest all of us," Paul said. "They can't keep all of your kids home from school. They can't keep every government building closed, although I've got a long list of ones they might keep closed or ought to keep closed."

Coronavirus cases in Kentucky are up by 50% in the last week, data shows. Almost every county in Kentucky has "high community transmission," according to the CDC.

School districts in the state have expanded virtual offerings as classes start again. In Jefferson County Public Schools, which includes Louisville, data shows that nearly 53% of the more than 95,000 students in the district will not be old enough to be vaccinated, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

Paul, who Fauci has said does not know what he's talking about when it comes to the pandemic, called the CDC's mask guidance "anti-science."

"Will we allow these people to use fear and propaganda to do further harm to our society, economy, and children?" Paul tweeted. "Or will we stand together and say, absolutely not. Not this time. I choose freedom."

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