A day after CDC officials said new data on COVID prompted them to update mask guidance, many Republican lawmakers are pushing back hard against the new guidance on Capitol Hill, giving a preview of the challenges public health officials face in convincing Americans to mask up again.
Following the new guidance, Congress’ attending physician announced members of the House are once again required to wear masks, and those who choose not to wear them can be fined.
Multiple GOP members shared their complaints about the mask guidance on Twitter, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who cast doubt on public health officials’ motives.
“Make no mistake—The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state,” tweeted McCarthy.
Make no mistake—The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state.— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) July 28, 2021
But the head of the CDC said on Tuesday that there is new evidence that vaccinated people can spread COVID-19, a development driven by the Delta variant, which she said behaves “uniquely.”
“We have new science related to the Delta variant that requires us to update the guidance,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday. “Recent outbreak investigations show that the delta variant behaves uniquely differently. In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks.”
Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert, who previously compared vaccination workers to Nazis, was uncooperative with the new mask mandate. Boebert was reportedly seen throwing a mask at a floor staffer when she was offered one while trying to walk onto the floor maskless. It is unclear if Boebert will be fined for not wearing her mask.
A witness told me they saw GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert throw a mask back at a floor staffer when she was offered one while trying to walk onto the floor maskless. Members can now be fined in the House when maskless— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 28, 2021
Rep. Lauren Boebert just threw a mask back at a Democratic floor staffer who tried to give her one, per source on the House floor who saw it happen.— Ben Siegel (@bensiegel) July 28, 2021
As of last night, the latest House guidance requires mask wearing on the floor and in most group meetings/spaces.
According to ABC reporter Ben Siegel, the new guidelines did not deter more than a dozen Republicans from being maskless on the House floor during a Wednesday vote.
They included Texas Representative Chip Roy, Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, West Virginia Representative Carol Miller, Georgia Representative Jody Hice, South Carolina Representative Ralph Norman, Virginia Representative Bob Good, Ohio Representative Warren Davidson, Montana Representative Matt Rosendale, Arizona Representative Andy Biggs, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, Utah Representative Burgess Owens, Texas Representative Randy Weber, and Georgia Representative Andrew Clyde, according to Siegel.
Last Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee announced it upheld $500 fines for three Republicans who violated the mask rule. Representatives Thomas Massie, Greene, and Ralph Norman will all be fined $500 after appearing maskless on the House floor.
The criticism wasn’t just limited to the House. In the Senate, which is not subject to new mandate, Texas Senator Ted Cruz expressed his discontent with the new CDC guidance on Twitter. Cruz has been a loud opponent of mask requirements and vaccine passports.
“Hell no. This is politics, not science,” tweeted Cruz.
Studies have demonstrated that masks can reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets as well as block the release of exhaled particles into the environment, protecting those who have COVID from infecting others and those who do not from getting it.
The new mask guidance followed recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor mask mandates amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the Delta variant. The country is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 4,981 new hospitalizations daily according to data from the CDC.
The surge in cases and hospitalizations is particularly bad in the south. One of Louisiana’s largest hospitals stopped taking inpatients due to the influx of COVID patients, while some hospitals in Florida are seeing more COVID patients than ever before.
Maria Elena Little Endara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.