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Pro-Maskers May Be Laying The Groundwork To Bring Back COVID Restrictions

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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Supporters of mask mandates may have a new opportunity to once again try bringing back COVID-19 restrictions in the coming weeks.

COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise in the United States, prompting some government officials to begin sounding the alarm that masks may need to make a comeback. The White House held its first COVID-19 response briefing in nearly two months Wednesday, the first for new response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, a longtime proponent of restrictions.

Jha, along with other top public health officials, noted that one-third of Americans now live in areas deemed “high-risk,” meaning they should now wear masks in indoor settings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s a substantial increase from when the CDC initially revised its risk assessment system, when just five percent of Americans lived in so-called high-risk areas.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said at the briefing that the agency encouraged local leaders in high-risk areas, largely concentrated in the northeast, to “encourage the use of prevention strategies like masking in public indoor settings.” (RELATED: REPORT: CDC Tracked Phone Data To Determine If Americans Followed Lockdown Guidance)

Jha said if the Biden administration does not get its requested $22 billion in new COVID-19 funding from Congress, there won’t be enough vaccines and treatments to go around this fall. Monday, the Biden administration opted not to end the ongoing public health emergency in place for the pandemic, which had been set to expire July 15.

The pressure is already coming down to return to a world of mask mandates. Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine has called on New York City Mayor Eric Adams to reinstate an indoors mask mandate, but Adams has so far refused to do so. Still, the city requires toddlers to be masked at school. Apple has reinstated mask mandates at 100 of its stores, and Trump-era Surgeon General Jerome Adams is encouraging Americans to prep for an oncoming surge by getting high-quality masks.

Just a few months ago, all 50 states and nearly every locality in the United States dropped their indoor mask mandate. The Biden administration sought to keep a mask mandate in place for public transportation and flights, but a federal judge struck down the mandate, which is now continuing to be contested in court.