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Coronavirus latest: Delta spread forces US states to act on masks and jabs

The spread of the Delta strain of the virus that causes Covid-19 through the US has prompted a flurry of state-level proclamations over the weekend relating to mask mandates and vaccinations.

The US is averaging about 100,000 new Covid-19 infections a day, according to Johns Hopkins University data, compared with 11,000 cases a day in late June. 

“Our models show that if we don’t [vaccinate people] we could be up to several hundred thousand cases a day, similar to our surge in early January,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky told CNN.

Ned Lamont, the Connecticut governor, said employees of all long-term care facilities in the state would be required to be vaccinated. The weekend order came a day after Lamont, from the Democratic party, allowed municipalities to require masks in indoor public places within their towns and cities, regardless of vaccination status.

A New York resident wears a face mask as she runs past the UN headquarters
A New York resident wears a face mask as she runs past the UN headquarters © Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

Virginia governor Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, said state workers would be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated or be tested for Covid-19 every week from September 1. 

New Jersey ordered that all students, educators, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face masks indoors for the start of the school year next month. Phil Murphy, the Democratic governor who referred to anti-vaccination activists as “ultimate knuckleheads” in a speech on Friday, said the mandate is effective from Monday.

Kentucky will all require the state’s health care workforce to initiate vaccination no later than September 15, said Andy Beshear, the state’s Democratic governor.

Kate Brown, the Democratic governor of Oregon, directed the Oregon Health Authority to issue a rule that requires weekly Covid-19 testing for personnel in health care settings, which can be waived with a proof of vaccination.

In Hawaii, state and county workers will need to get vaccinated for Covid-19 by August 16, or get tested weekly. “Based on the current conditions, I must take action to protect public health and avert unmanageable strains on our healthcare,” said David Ige, Hawaii’s Democratic governor.

A woman wears a mask while playing bingo at St Jerome Catholic Church in Fancy Farm, Kentucky
A woman wears a mask while playing bingo at St Jerome Catholic Church in Fancy Farm, Kentucky © Alex Slitz/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP

While falling short of mandates, the Republican governors of Texas and Alaska, and the Democratic governors of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nevada urged residents to get jabbed.

“Unfortunately, despite widespread vaccine availability, there are still many eligible Pennsylvanians who are unvaccinated,” said Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor. 

In West Virginia, Republican governor Jim Justice said the state’s surge of cases “will only get worse if we don’t really aggressively run and get vaccinated today”.

Ohio’s Republican governor gave little indication he planned to bring in a mask mandate despite high levels of Covid-19 transmission across most of the state. Mike DeWine indicated he still favoured individual choices.

In Iowa, Republican governor Kim Reynolds said the US guidance recommending that the fully vaccinated continue to wear masks was “not only counterproductive to our vaccination efforts, but also not grounded in reality or common sense”.


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