New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy became the latest Democratic official Tuesday to say his state does not plan to reimpose its mask mandate at this time, one in a string of left-leaning leaders who have so far declined to reinstate mask restrictions despite the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant and new restrictions in Los Angeles and other areas.
Murphy said on CNBC Tuesday he believed the state did not yet need to reimpose its mandate “for the time being,” but added, “If we have to, we will.”
His comments came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to reinstate the city’s mask order Monday, saying “vaccination is the answer” and claiming mask wearing “doesn’t arrest the progress of the variant” despite their effectiveness in curbing Covid-19 transmission.
A spokesperson for Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told the Hartford Courant there are “no changes planned to the current policies at this time,” though the governor’s office is “monitoring” coronavirus variants’ spread.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday implementing a mask mandate again was “not under active consideration at the moment” and the state is “using the tool of vaccinations.”
After Los Angeles County reinstated their indoor mask mandate, California Gov. Gavin Newsom did not directly answer a question Monday on whether the state was reconsidering a mask mandate, but said his government was “committed not to imposing new restrictions” and also “committed to addressing this latest increase in the number of new cases.”
83%. That’s the approximate percentage of U.S. Covid-19 cases that are now linked to the Delta variant, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday, up from 50% the week of July 3.
“It is a problem to say to people, ‘You did the right thing, but now you have to put your mask back on,’” de Blasio said Tuesday in defense of the city’s refusal to issue a mask mandate, though he said he would consider it if the city’s Covid-19 situation worsens. The mayor instead pressured residents to get vaccinated, citing the wide availability of vaccines in New York City, where 58.2% of the total population has received at least one vaccine dose. “We’ve been really nice, really respectful. But I’m like, come on people,” de Blasio said. “What more do we have to do at this point? This is getting insane.”
Other Democratic governors are taking a more aggressive approach to mask wearing. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has urged even fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in light of the variant’s spread, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear released new guidance Monday that says unvaccinated people and those with preexisting conditions should wear masks indoors outside the home, and even fully vaccinated people should consider mask wearing if they’re “in jobs with significant public exposure.” Hawaii never dropped its indoor mask mandate to begin with, and Gov. David Ige said last week he would be keeping it in place in light of the Delta variant.
Some Democratic officials have been heavily critical of leaders’ refusal to reimpose mask mandates in light of the threat of new Covid-19 surges posed by the Delta variant. “It is inconvenient, but it slows the spread,” New York City councilmember Mark Levine told NY1 Tuesday about a new mask mandate. “And to protect vulnerable people, including kids, including the immunocompromised, it’s a step we need to take.”
Los Angeles reimposed their mask mandate over the weekend and mask recommendations have now been issued in such areas as Las Vegas and Orlando. Mask mandates have been a source of contention throughout the pandemic, and though Democratic leaders largely kept the orders in place even as Republican-led states dropped them, new CDC guidance saying fully vaccinated people do not have to wear masks caused even left-leaning states to rescind their orders in quick succession. Those CDC guidelines have now come under scrutiny in the face of the Delta variant, however, as the World Health Organization has urged even the fully vaccinated to wear masks and social distance, and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said the CDC guidance is “premature” and “wrong.” The CDC, for its part, has defended its mask guidance and has not suggested it will change in light of the Delta variant, though they have recommended areas with high transmission and low vaccination rates should consider imposing their own restrictions. Covid-19 vaccines have been shown to be broadly effective against the Delta variant—particularly in preventing severe illness and death—though breakthrough infections are possible if rare.