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Spike in COVID-19 cases renews US debate over mask warrants – NBC Chicago

Officials across the United States are once again questioning how and whether to impose mask warrants as COVID-19 infections skyrocket and the American public grow weary of restrictions related to pandemic.

Much of the debate centers around schools across the country, some of which have closed due to staff issues related to infections. In various places, the mask warrants are lifted or rejected.

The changes come as the federal government assesses the supply of medical-grade respiratory masks, such as the N95 or KN95 masks. In a briefing Wednesday, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said officials “are seriously considering options to make more high-quality masks available to all Americans,” noting that the government had a stock of over 750 million N95 masks.

The best mask “is one that you will wear and one that you can keep on all day, that you can tolerate in indoor public places,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials in the Wyoming capital voted on Monday to end a mask mandate for students and teachers that had been in place since September. The Cheyenne School District also reduced the COVID-19 isolation requirements, voting to require that only people with symptoms and positive tests – not just those exposed – to stay home for five days and mask themselves for five. days thereafter.

The University of Missouri board of trustees on Tuesday rejected a request from the president of the university system to temporarily require masks on the Columbia campus, as well as a specific mandate for classrooms and laboratories.

A school board meeting was called off Monday in Wichita, Kansas, after three new members refused to wear masks for an oath-taking ceremony. Meanwhile, in the Topeka region, elected officials rejected a plea to impose masks, urging people to be cautious but saying they were not ready for a demand.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explains when people should get tested for COVID-19.

Some jurisdictions are moving on their own towards more stringent masking policies, including requiring higher quality mask materials.

Last week, the University of Arizona announced it would require a medical-grade mask in indoor spaces where social distancing is not possible. The school said on its website that it no longer considers sheet masks to be adequate, although a sheet mask can be worn over a medical grade mask to improve fit and increase protection.

A new indoor mask mandate goes into effect Wednesday in New Orleans ahead of the Mardi Gras season. The number of daily hospitalizations for coronaviruses across the state of Louisiana has increased sevenfold in three weeks – a peak that has strained hospitals, where emergency room waits sometimes last up to 12 hours, according to the city’s health director, Dr Jennifer Avegno.

Health officials in Omaha, Nebraska announced a temporary mask warrant on Tuesday, but the state has threatened to sue if the rule is imposed as intended. Omaha City Council Chairman Pete Festersen said a majority of council supported the move.

“It was not a decision that I took lightly. It was not an easy decision at all and I know it will create waves, ”said Lindsay Huse, Douglas County director of health. “But it’s a tool that we have in our toolbox. We have research, evidence, showing that masks decrease transmission. “

Other places have been reluctant to bring back requirements that ended months ago. In Michigan, where state officials have said the record number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations could peak in late January or early February before starting to decline, health officials have remained reluctant to restore restrictions or hide mandates. They continue to implore people to get vaccinated, get vaccinated, wear tight-fitting masks in public and avoid large gatherings.

With omicron causing record infections in the United States, many are wondering which COVID-19 test is most effective.

Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, recommended that people wear an N95 mask or two tight-fitting face covers. A group of parents have called for requirements for school masks, which are in place in the majority of individual districts but not at the state level.

In Utah, as lawmakers prepared to meet for the year, GOP Governor Spencer Cox exempted the Capitol and other state facilities from a municipal mask mandate. Jenny Wilson, Democratic Mayor of Salt Lake County, said the governor has no authority to make exceptions to the policy, which requires N95 and KN95 masks or similar masks for a month in indoor spaces, including including schools.

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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