Washington–More US states have announced plans to drop mask mandates amid continued high levels of new Covid-19 cases nationwide and increasing variant infections, drawing criticism from health experts.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced on Thursday that she would lift her state’s mask mandate in about a month, Xinhua news agency reported.
In a statement, she said that beginning on April 9, wearing masks will be “a matter of personal responsibility and not a government mandate”.
On Tuesday, the Governors of Texas and Mississippi announced that they would halt mask mandates and reopen their states, allowing businesses to operate at full capacity.
Earlier this month, Iowa and Montana Governors announced they would lift social distancing measures and mask mandates.
Meanwhile, North Dakota’s mask mandate which was implemented in November 2020 expired in January.
Officials did not renew it due to a drop in cases and hospitalisations, while allowing for local safety protocols to be enacted.
These states have now joined more than a dozen others that never mandated the usage of face coverings.
The states’ decisions to drop mask mandates come as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned against complacency in the face of emerging coronavirus variants.
It drew great concern and criticism from officials and experts.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday called it a “big mistake” for states to end mask mandates.
“Cases in the country are levelling off at rates just on the cusp of potential to resurge,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a Wednesday briefing on the re-openings.
She added the Covid-19 variant that first emerged in Britain, known as B.1.1.7, “looms ready to hijack our successes to date”.
She stressed that it was “critically important” that “individuals wear a mask, socially distance and do the right thing to protect their own health”.
The decision of state leaders to roll back restriction measures is “inexplicable”, said Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert.
The baseline level of coronavirus cases needs to fall further before the country can confidently resume normal activities, even as the vaccine rollout accelerates, he said.
Fauci noted that in past periods of the pandemic, “when we started to pull back prematurely, we saw the rebound. We definitely don’t want that to happen”.
Currently nearly 2,600 infection cases of coronavirus variants have been reported in the US, according to the CDC. (IANS)