The debate around the mask does not belong to the United States. With the new outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, the opposition remains sharp on the line to be followed between the different governors. Some people oppose any measure to make it mandatory despite the recommendations of health authorities.
The confrontation is not new. At the beginning of the epidemic, the mask had quickly become a symbol of political affiliation: Donald Trump then set out to show himself as little as possible with his face covered. A year later, the issue remains particularly sensitive as the start of the school year approaches.
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, for example, has banned his state’s schools from requiring students to wear masks. Several school districts have announced that they want to challenge his order. In return, he threatened to cut funds to the rogue schools or even stop paying the salaries of the school officials involved in these decisions.
In May, vaccinated Americans were able to say goodbye to the mask, as health officials felt they could safely remove it. In early July, the country’s main public health agency (CDC) assured that this recommendation would also apply in classes at the beginning of the school year for vaccinated children. But that counted without the Delta variant. As a result, at the end of July, the mask is again recommended indoors for vaccinated people, in regions where the circulation of the virus is important. That is almost 90% of the country.
The epidemic is also currently particularly virulent in the southeast of the country. Precisely where states are among the least vaccinated. But “unvaccinated people are also less likely to wear the mask,” said Eric Cioe-Pena, a public health expert at Northwell Health. In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson enforced the wearing of a mask during this winter’s epidemic peak. But when the cases decreased, he finally lifted it and, under pressure from a very conservative local government, signed a law that prohibits the re-imposition of such an obligation in the future.
In Texas, as in Florida, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has banned schools from requiring masks. And again, several school districts announced that they would do it anyway. Same scenario in Arizona. On the contrary, in New York or even in Illinois, democratic states, all schoolchildren must wear a mask.
“We behave as if there are two countries,” said Nahid Bhadelia, director of the Center for Research on Emerging Infectious Diseases at Boston University. “But the sad thing is that it is not. Because what happens in the south of the country will affect the north ”. There are still a few days to find common ground before the start of the school year.