(UnitedVoice.com) – COVID-19 infection and death rates dropped dramatically through the spring and early summer months. In May, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revised its recommendation to allow vaccinated individuals to be maskless indoors and outdoors. As the delta variant spreads, the federal government hinted over the last week a change was coming.
That change is no longer imminent; it’s here. The CDC is recommending vaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors in certain situations.
Of course, the new guidelines may not mean much. Several governors got ahead of the CDC in the spring and eliminated mitigation orders without the federal government’s blessing, including masks. So the question bears asking: Can the federal government mandate a universal mask policy nationwide?
What Is the CDC’s New Guidance?
On Tuesday, July 27, the CDC “recommended” vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors in areas where COVID-19 infection rates are high. Additionally, the CDC also recommended kids, teachers, administrators, and visitors wear masks in school again this fall. According to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the Delta variant requires the update because it is different from previous strains of COVID-19. She suggested vaccinated individuals could become infectious and spread the disease.
However, according to many health experts, the biggest concern is the transmission rates among the unvaccinated.
White House Challenged
In light of the new recommendations, the press questioned White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about mask mandates on Tuesday. If the vaccines work, why do vaccinated people need to wear masks? Her argument fell flat.
Psaki’s answer was her typical ploy, give a non-answer. She stated the virus is evolving, and there’s no playbook for dealing with COVID-19. But is that right? Did researchers learn nothing in the last 18 months? Of course, they did. What they discovered is the disease is likely to be with us for a very long time.
What Americans learned is we are individually responsible for our bodies. The information about vaccines is readily available, and people can make their own best decisions about the appropriateness of vaccinating.
It should no longer be a “get vaccinated or wear a mask” scenario. At this point, it’s starting to look like retribution for those who refuse to vaccinate.
CDC Has Little Bite
In our system of government, national mandates are neither possible nor enforceable because the 10th Amendment explicitly states the federal government may only act on powers specifically given to it. Those not expressly mentioned belong to the states.
Therefore, public health powers reside with the states. The CDC can recommend away. However, if governors and state legislatures choose to ignore their “recommendations,” then that’s that. The question is, which states will follow the new guidance and which won’t?
Each state is unique and different. For example, Democratic governors in Pennsylvania and Michigan were recently hamstrung by voters. Without the approval of the Republican legislatures, the mask mandates likely won’t happen without a very good reason. It’s also likely red states won’t comply with the CDC recommendations. The best the federal government can do is plead its case.
Therein lies the challenge and power of a constitutional republic’s checks and balances.
Don Purdum, Independent Political Analyst
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