US Surgeon General says he anticipates return of mask mandates in Covid hotspots as LA rule reinstated

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US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy (2021 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.)
US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy (2021 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.)

The US’s top doctor is predicting that more cities and municipalities will follow the lead of Los Angeles County and reinstate mask mandates as Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the country.

Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy said the rising rate of cases and hospitalizations among unvaccinated Americans in many states could lead to localities reinstating mask mandates.

Such a move would likely trigger a major backlash in some conservative circles, where resistance to mask mandates and other Covid-19 preventative measures has been pronounced.

“What we’re seeing in LA County is concerning, this rise in cases, and unfortunately we are seeing rises particularly among the unvaccinated in many parts of the country now,” Dr Murthy said on ABC’s This Week.

“Now, in areas where there are low numbers of vaccinated people, or where cases are rising, it’s very reasonable for counties to take more mitigation measures...and I anticipate that will take place in other parts of the country too,” Dr Murthy continued.

The Surgeon General went on to note that many who have unvaccinated family members, such as young children, have continued to wear masks in public as mask mandates have ended due to concerns about spreading the virus to those individuals.

His comments followed a statement from Dr Jerome Adams, Surgeon General under the Trump administration, taking responsibility for erroneous advice in the spring of 2020 urging Americans not to wear masks.

Dr Adams and others such as Dr Anthony Fauci have said that the guidance was aimed at the time at preserving scarce personal protective equipment for medical professionals. However it has been blamed for the skepticism many Americans have shown in taking basic measures to stop the virus from spreading.

“Last year Tony Fauci and I famously, prematurely, & wrongly advised against masks. I felt it was the best call at the time, but now regret it”, tweeted Dr Adams on Saturday.

“I’m worried the CDC also made a similarly premature, misinterpreted, yet still harmful call on masking in the face of [rising cases of] delta variant”, he continued.

California saw its one-week total for Covid cases double over last week, as it now lags behind only Tennessee in terms of the rate of new cases being reported.

A variant of the virus thought to be more infectious than previous iterations, known as the “Delta” variant, has also been recorded in all 50 states. Health experts have warned that hospital systems in rural areas and places where unvaccinated rates are high could be overwhelmed if current trends continue in the weeks ahead.

Just over half of California’s eligible population is vaccinated, while 63 per cent of its eligible residents have received one dose.

Despite the surge, the sheriff of one of California’s largest counties, Los Angeles County, falsely claimed in a statement this week that mask mandates for vaccinated Californians was not “backed by science” and would not be enforced by his department.

“Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines,” the sheriff’s order falsely claims. CDC guidelines state that localities can reinstate such guidelines if case numbers are rising significantly.

The Independent has reached out to the sheriff’s department for comment.

“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) has authority to enforce the order, but the underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance. We encourage the DPH to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and law enforcement to establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva added.

Misinformation about vaccinations is now one of the leading causes of the dropping vaccination rates around the country, Dr Murthy said at a White House address earlier this week, and now poses a major public health risk.

"This is about the health of Americans and the reality is that misinformation is still spreading like wildfire in our country, aided and abetted by technology platforms," he added today on Fox News Sunday.

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