St. Louis City and County in Missouri will reimpose indoor mask mandates in public places and on public transportation Monday, joining several communities across the nation that have done so as coronavirus cases rise.
The mask mandates will apply to adults as well as children as young as 5 years old, even those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the city announced in a press release Friday.
According to the Missouri Times, more than 1,000 new COVID cases have been reported in St. Louis County in the past week, including two deaths. Within the city there have been 389 new cases but no reported deaths.
"We've lost more than 500 St. Louisans to COVID-19, and if our region doesn't work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems," said Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the city of St. Louis. "The city and county health departments are taking this joint step to save lives, make sure hospitals can provide the care residents rely on, and protect our children so they can enjoy a full range of educational opportunities this year.
"Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance when possible, and most importantly, get vaccinated. Vaccines remain one of the best methods to prevent severe complications and death from the virus," he added.
NEW: St. Louis city and county will reinstate the mask mandate for indoor public places as well as public transit o… https://t.co/TD2LSKcmqU— Kaitlyn Schallhorn (@Kaitlyn Schallhorn)1627067589.0
Coronavirus infections are on the rise nationwide, with new cases increasing 55% since last week to an average of 37,000 new cases per day, CNBC News reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines published on May 13 state that anyone who has been fully vaccinated "can resume activities that you did before the pandemic without wearing a mask or physically distancing." The CDC says that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness or death from the virus. The vaccines also reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
However, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky recently told lawmakers that the agency is reexamining its guidelines as scientists continue to study the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is more contagious though not deadlier than other variants of the virus.
"A lot has changed since May 13," Walensky said. "We now have a variant circulating in this country that at the time was 3% (of new cases) and is now 83% and much more transmissible."
The White House said Friday that 40% of new COVID cases were reported in Florida, Texas, and Missouri, three states that have lower vaccination rates than other parts of the country. More than 97% of the people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
There have also been high-profile reports of vaccinated people testing positive for COVID-19, most recently six Texas Democrats, a White House aide, and a staffer that works for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Breakthrough infections among vaccinated people remain uncommon, scientists say, and those that do contract the Delta variant are likely to only experience mild symptoms and wont require hospitalization.
While local communities may respond to rising infections with renewed coronavirus restrictions, Republican governors in states with low vaccination rates are signaling hesitancy or outright opposition to renewed mask mandates.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in an interview that people have ""immunity to COVID through the vaccination or through their own exposure and recovery from it."
"It would be inappropriate to require people who already have immunity to wear a mask," he explained.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who never implemented a statewide mask mandate in the first place, said that government policy should focus on getting people vaccinated and promised to fight mask mandates in schools.
"So here's, I think, the most important thing with the data: if you are vaccinated — fully vaccinated — the chance of you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is effectively zero," DeSantis said earlier this week. "If you look at the people who are being admitted to hospitals, over 95 percent of them are either not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated at all. These vaccines are saving lives. They are reducing mortality.
"I get a little bit frustrated when I see some of these jurisdictions saying, 'even if you're healthy and vaccinated, you must wear a mask because we're seeing increased cases.' Understand what that message is sending to people who aren't vaccinated," the governor added. "It's telling them that the vaccines don't work. I think that's the worst message you can send to people at this time."