White House officials are under fire for recommending Americans mask up when in indoor public places, while officials in California start to bring back the face-coverings despite increasing evidence showing they do little to prevent transmission of the virus and that the infection is no longer the dire threat it once was.
Over the weekend, White House Covid Response Coordinator Dr Ashish Jha said that America is still in the midst of a pandemic and that citizens should considers masking indoors – echoing calls from Dr Anthony Fauci a week earlier.
Dr Marty Makary, a public health expert from Johns Hopkins University, slammed Jha for his comments in an email to DailyMail.com – saying that the nation is firmly in the endemic phase of the virus’s lifespan. It comes as data from the South Pacific shows that mask mandates in countries like New Zealand and Singapore did little to prevent transmission of the virus or to reduce deaths.
Despite this evidence, masks are starting to make a return in parts of California. San Diego Unified School District is now requiring all summer school students and staff to mask indoors through the end of the session. This could also mean a return to face-coverings once the new educational year kicks off in the fall.
Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest city, could also reinstate an indoor mask mandate as early as July 29 if case, test positivity and hospitalization figures do not drop in the next ten days.
San Diego Unified School District is now requiring all students and staff to wear masks during summer activities. The move comes after Los Angeles officials said last week a mask mandate could return to their city as early as July 29. Pictured: A student in Sacramento, California, wears a mask at school
‘This is a virus that is still evolving rapidly. We’re still in the middle of this pandemic,’ Jha told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.
‘Obviously we’re in a way better place than we were a year and a half ago. But we still have work to do, we have to stay on top of this virus.’
An Axios poll from May finds that at least one-in-three Americans would disagree with the White House czar’s assessment.
Dr Marty Makary (pictured), a public health expert from Johns Hopkins University, told DailyMail.com that majority of masks people have will do nothing to prevent spread of the virus – and that Covid is now endemic, not a pandemic
The survey found that 31 percent of Americans thought the pandemic was over, including nearly 60 percent of Republicans.
‘We are not in the middle of a pandemic, we have a seasonal endemic virus that causes many people to develop common-cold symptoms,’ Makary said.
‘Dr Jha is failing to remind people that Omicron poses no significant public health risk to the vast majority of Americans beyond that of common-cold like symptoms,’ he added.
While COVID-19 is still spreading rapidly in America, its overall risk has significantly declined since the Omicron variant took hold in late 2021.
It is the most infectious strain of the virus yet – with each sub-lineage breaking off of it found to be more transmissible than the last.
Omicron has lost much of the virus’s bite, though. It is more mild than previous versions of the virus, and asymptomatic and mild cases are becoming more common than before.
The White House’s Covid chief is also a proponent of Americans bringing back masks when they are gathered indoors.
‘If you’re in a crowded indoor space, especially if its poorly ventilated, wearing a mask reduces your risk of infection and your risk of spreading it to others. So we’ve got to continue to encourage people to do that,’ he said.
Some officials are starting to heed these warnings from the nation’s top health officials. In San Diego, school officials published a letter Friday announcing that masks will now be required for the remainder of summer programming.
‘If your student is participating in summer school or other summer enrichment program, please send them to school or their program with a mask,’ officials wrote.
‘If they do not have one, masks will be provided. Students and staff will be required to wear their masks while indoors only.’
Organizers of San Diego Comic-Con – a massive event expecting well over 100,000 attendees – will also require masks indoors, organizers announced Monday.
Makary notes that many of the masks people have at home are likely useless against the virus. Growing research shows that both cloth and surgical masks do not have the necessary fit or filtration to properly prevent spread of Covid.
Dr Ashish Jha (pictured), the White House’s COVID-19 Response Coordinator, said over the weekend that America is still in the middle of a pandemic
While N95 and KN95 masks have been found to be effective, not all people have access to them and the nation has struggled with supply shortages of the gold standard masks in recent months.
Recent data comparing Australia, New Zealand and Singapore also shows that mask orders have limited, if any, effect of case and death counts.
Masks are worn everywhere in the densely-populated Asian city while New Zealanders are forced to wear them in all indoor public places, such as shopping centers and libraries.
But both now have higher case numbers per million than Australia, where compulsory mask rules have been abandoned in most indoor settings.
Since Australian mandates began to ease last October, per capita case numbers in Singapore exceeded, matched or lagged behind Australia, before rising ahead again.
In New Zealand, case numbers were six weeks behind Australia’s Omicron wave in January, but since February they have matched or exceeded Australia.
Death rates in New Zealand also overtook Australia per capita at the start of March, despite the Kiwis being on the highest code red mask mandate restrictions – and have stayed higher ever since.
The vaccines have played an important role as well, with hospitalizations and deaths among those that have received the jab found to be rare.
Jha noted that people over the age of 50 – who suffer the most risk from the virus – should receive their fourth vaccine dose if they have not already.
The shots, which are the second booster after the original two-dose regimen of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, were made available earlier this year in an effort to shore up protection for the most vulnerable to the virus.
‘If you are 50 or over, if you have not gotten a shot this year in 2022, it is absolutely critical that you go and get one now it will offer a high degree of protection,’ Jha said.
There is diminishing returns with each shot received, though, and Makary believed that the current crop of additional shots is unnecessary. Especially as experts believe a majority of Americans have natural protection against the virus provided by a previous infection.
‘He said it’s absolutely critical to get boosted if you are over 50. But that added protection is a weak augmentation of immunity against the current strain since the booster vaccine is being given is against the original Wuhan strain,’ Makary wrote.
‘Importantly, once again, Dr Jha supporting the big Pharma narrative in denying the fact that natural immunity provides strong protection against severe disease.
‘Dr Jha has long been hostile to those who point to the fact that prior infection generates good protection against severe disease to the vast majority of Americans, especially those over age 50.
‘In countries that have not boosted their populations, we are not seeing any difference in case rates.’
He is also a critic of the White House’s plans to rollout reformulated COVID-19 boosters specifically tailored to the Omicron variant as early as this October.
‘[Jha] said you can get an Omicron specific shot this fall but we haven’t seen any data on it yet. Why push a vaccine for which data against the current variant is not available,’ Makary adds.