US cities step up COVID guidelines, but halt before imposing mandates

Cities and health agencies across the country are stepping up recommendations for measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, but are stopping short of imposing sweeping mandates.

The measures come as the omicron BA.2.12.1 subvariant continues to spread across the country, nearly surpassing BA.2, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the week ending May 14.

The New York City Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene issued an advisory on Monday calling on people to mask up in indoor places, including stores and offices, regardless of vaccination status, because cases are steadily increasing and “increasing the pressure on the health system”.

Yet Eric Adams, the mayor of New York, does not mandate the wearing of face masks.

“We’re not about to do anything but urge New Yorkers, while you’re inside in big settings, social settings, wear your masks,” Adams said, according to the New York Times.

“If there comes a time when our hospitals are in a state of emergency, or if we are moving in that direction, and my doctors who run the hospitals tell me that this is what we have to do, I will listen to them, ” He continued.

Los Angeles is also facing similar pressures, as COVID-positive hospitalizations are trending up in Los Angeles County, up 29% from last week, according to the Los Angeles Times.

On Monday, Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, also called on people to wear masks in enclosed spaces to limit the “spread as we continue to increase the number of residents and workers up to date with their vaccinations,” in a statement reported in the LA Times.

New York City and LA County continue to require masks on public transportation.

The CDC also now recommends testing before domestic travel, no more than three days before the date of travel, without citing different guidelines for fully vaccinated passengers.

The Biden administration is also doubling down on the COVID tests that households are allowed to order at home for free. Households will now be able to order up to eight rapid home tests.

The White House’s testing announcement also took a swipe at Congress for failing to pass COVID funding, warning it could jeopardize the nation’s pandemic preparedness.

“Due to Congress’ inability to provide additional funding for the nation’s response to COVID-19, the administration cannot continue to make the types of federal investments needed to maintain national test manufacturing capacity, and this may compromise the federal government’s ability to provide free testing in the future,” the statement read.

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha acknowledged the rise in infections and encouraged people to take a rapid COVID test before attending parties and before visiting members vulnerable in the family.

“We’ve been working hard to get these tests and with cases increasing, now is a good time to do more for Americans,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

The White House COVID-19 response team and public health officials, including Dr. Jha, the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, will hold a press briefing on Wednesday to provide updates on the country’s response to the pandemic.

President Joe Biden marked the grim milestone of one million COVID deaths last week.

“We must remain vigilant in the face of this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible,” Biden said.


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