US President Joe Biden is pushing harder on vaccines and masks as Covid-19 cases are surging across the country due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths have continued to increase in most parts of the country, especially in communities with lower vaccination coverage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The outlook is especially dire in the South. The states of Florida and Louisiana recently set seven-day case records, Xinhua news agencuy quoted report by The New York Times as saying on Saturday.
In Florida, coronavirus hospitalizations are roughly equal to their previous peak from last summer.
In Louisiana, intensive care units are strained and young adults are contracting serious cases of the virus.
The resurgence has prompted the CDC to issue new guidelines on mask wearing, and some areas are returning to restrictions seen last year during the height of the pandemic.
Mask wearing has been a subject of controversy in the United States for more than a year, with a significant chunk of the population refusing to wear masks for many different reasons. Some believe such choices are up to the individual, others believe – against current data – that masks do not necessarily protect against the virus.
Recent weeks have also seen a marked increase in the number of private sector companies promoting vaccinations for those who want to return to the office.
In a sharp about face of previous statements, recent days saw Biden say he would like to see companies move toward mandates.
Biden has announced that all federal workers must be vaccinated or be required to wear masks and undergo regular testing.
The President also said he believes more cities and states should institute rules like those in New York City, where customers at restaurants, gyms and other venues are required to be vaccinated.
So far, 50 per cent of the US. population, or more than 165.9 million people, have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the CDC.
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua: “Many public and private sector organizations have instituted mask and vaccine requirements. Some leaders oppose this but they are in states with low vaccination rates and high Covid rates.”
An article published on Yalemedicine.org, one of Yale University’s websites, said people who are fully vaccinated “appear to have strong protection against Delta compared to those who aren’t… But anyone who is unvaccinated and not practicing preventive strategies is at high risk for infection by the new variant”.
As an increased number of cities call for employee vaccinations, they are seeing pushback from some labour unions.
New York unions were outraged last week after the city implemented employee vaccination requirements.
“We are absolutely against an absolute mandate to vaccinate everyone,” said Henry Garrido, executive of New York’s health union.
The New York Fire Department (FDNY) also expressed anger about the possibility of weekly Covid-19 testing paid for by employees.
“This testing will not be done on our own time or our own dime,” FDNY union president Andrew Ansbro said. “If the city wants this, they can make it possible and they can pay for it.”
In its latest update on Sunday morning, the Johns Hopkins University said that the US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 35,738,154 and 616,713, respectively.