'I feel defeated': Mask and vaccine mandates cause new divides as officials try to head off virus surge

Staff members are being told to get coronavirus shots by the deadlines at hospitals. Workers at large corporations like Google and United Airlines are being instructed to put on their sleeves. Even unions which once opposed vaccine mandates are now showing support.
It's not just shots. Indoor mask mandates have returned to dozens of counties and cities. Public health officials and city leaders argue that the requirement is necessary to save lives, and maintain the economic recovery. Some areas of the country have mandates that require vaccination.

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London Breed, San Francisco Mayor, said that this was to "protect children [and] protect people who can't get vaccines." This announcement came ten days after the reinstatement of an indoor mask mandate. "To ensure that I don't have to apologize and then get up in front you again and say, "I'm sorry, we just reopened, and now we are seeing too much people die."

The summer of 2021 will be a season full of mandates. Rules requiring masks or vaccines are reemerging in the pandemic's latest cultural, political and political flashpoint. Mandates are being used in many areas of the country, including the states most affected by the virus's resurgence. They pit blue cities against red governors and spark protests.

Justin Short, assistant property manager in a luxury apartment complex in downtown Kansas City, Mo., said that there are days when I feel defeated. Short posted flyers this month announcing the use of masks in the building. He also thanked the 300 residents for their help "keeping the community safe." Unidentified suspect began to tear down the flyers and even broke one of the frames.

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Short smiled, his smile disappearing from his face. I was wrong.

Public health officials point out that mask mandates are popularly supported and that face covers are an easy way to prevent transmission. According to Quinnipiac University's poll, 6 out 10 Americans support the use of masks in areas where there is high coronavirus transmission.

Brian Kendall, an infectious disease physician at Providence Portland Medical Center, Portland, Ore., said that it makes sense, with caseloads rising like they are. He was wearing a face mask as he entered a local gym, and praised the new mask rules. "A lot of my coworkers are very frustrated, almost to the point where they become cynical."

According to The Washington Post's rolling 7-day average, virus-related hospitalizations in the United States have quadrupled in just the past month to almost 80,000. Hospitals in Florida and Mississippi warn that they are running out of staff and beds.

Americans who aren't vigilant enough or who don't take precautions to safeguard themselves from the virus surge have been exposed to new dangers. According to Axios Ipsos poll, 57% of adults wear a mask regularly in public. This is compared to more than 90% who wore a mask in the early 2021. Four months after the eligibility deadline, over 90 million Americans have not been able to get a shot.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation workers are more likely get vaccinated if their employers encourage it. In June, 4 out of 10 workers who were not vaccinated said that they would receive the shots if necessary. This suggests that vaccine mandates may be able to influence tens of million of Americans who have ignored months-long appeals.

However, vaccine mandates have caused significant controversy. This has led to lawsuits, walkouts, and political grandstanding by critics.

Liberty Counsel, a conservative advocacy group, supported health-care workers who staged a national walkout to protest the coronavirus vaccination requirement. This month, the San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs Association posted a Facebook message threatening mass resignation if the city implements a vaccine mandate for this fall.

The group stated that if deputy sheriffs were forced to vaccinate, some of them would retire early or look for employment elsewhere.

The school's president, Penn State University, saw the coming storm. Eric Barron, Penn State's president, released an open letter Thursday in which he defended his school's decision to not institute a vaccine mandate. He stated that leaders were trying to protect the community by minimizing polarization.

"When you ask people whether they want vaccine mandates," Liz Hamel, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said. She oversees the organization's polling. While most workers do not want their employer to require vaccinations, the majority of Americans support having teachers and health workers get shot.

Hamel said that public health is the most important aspect of persuasion. He added that vaccination incentives and other similar strategies have mostly failed. "I believe this is why we are seeing more mandates now."

A minority of Americans are dissatisfied that mask mandates were reinstated.

Ned Fasullo is a Baton Rouge business development executive who helped to block a local plan to segregate vaccinated from unvaccinated Catholic students. He was concerned that it would make his unvaccinated children distant from their friends. The victory was short-lived though: Louisiana Governor. John Bel Edwards issued this month a statewide indoor mask directive that required schools, including those attended by Fasullo's kids, to require teachers and students to wear masks indoors.

Fasullo stated, "I think people at state level stepping into has been incredibly divisive to our state," and decried the Democratic governor’s order. The Republican attorney general of the state has attempted to subvert the order by arguing Edwards’s mask mandate lacks legal authority. It has divided Louisiana into many factions. It's not the government’s job to tell people how to get vaccinated and wear masks.

Officials are becoming more sceptical. According to a Post review and statewide mandates reimposed by Oregon and Nevada, mask mandates have been reinstated in over 50 cities and counties. Many cities and states, including New York City and New Orleans, have implemented stricter requirements for proof of vaccination in order to visit restaurants, gyms, and other public places.

The White House is pushing employers to act after months of promising not to impose mandatory vaccinations. On Wednesday, President Biden hosted a summit of business leaders who wanted to mandate workers get vaccinated. He praised them as an example for other countries.

Biden made it clear to millions of federal employees that they had a choice. They could either get vaccinated, or go through regular testing, masking, and other restrictions. Officials from the Administration said that they believed this helped private employers adopt their own shot requirements.

"It gave businesses an umbrella because they didn't want to be first," said a senior official of the administration, speaking under anonymity to discuss the strategy. "And then it gave them the road map - this is how they can do it."

Others said that business leaders were encouraged by the lack of lawsuits against companies that required employees to have shots. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected a challenge by Indiana University to its vaccination mandate for students.

Ashish Jha, dean at Brown University's public school of health, said that "a few people dipped into the water and found the water was fine". He praised Houston Methodist and other systems that imposed vaccination mandates months earlier.

Some labor organizations, such as the Washington Teachers Union in the District of Columbia have indicated that they are now open to mandated vaccines if they can shape them.

Jha stated that the arrival of coronavirus varieties motivated action. The highly infectious delta variant was linked to an increase in cases. According to The Post's seven-day rolling average, confirmed coronavirus infections in the United States have increased from 13,000 per day in early July to more like 128,000 now.

Jha stated, "I have been speaking to many companies, businesses and universities." "One of the things they're realizing about delta is that it's hard to know how students and employees can return if you don’t have mandates."

Some Americans who have been vaccinated cautioned against putting pressure on unvaccinated people. Chad Sivertson (a 40-year old Republican from Minnesota) said that vaccine-reluctant Americans should be allowed to explore their concerns rather than being ordered to get vaccinated in order to maintain their jobs or travel. Sivertson stated that he was initially reluctant to get vaccinated, but he learned more about it and received his first Pfizer BioNTech shot in March.

"If it had become a requirement and I hadn’t received the vaccine yet, I would probably have been a conscientious objector." Sivertson stated that he doesn't want to be forced into taking a vaccine.

Experts said that masks require less animus than mandates for vaccines. Kaiser Family Foundation polling shows that more than 6 out 10 parents support the wearing of masks to school for unvaccinated children. A similar percentage opposes the requirement to vaccinate schoolchildren.

However, there are significant partisan divisions and frustration: 88% of Democrats support the requirement of masks in schools for children who have not been vaccinated, while 69% oppose it.

Short, a 33-year old Kansas City resident who helps manage an apartment building, said that he is empathic when residents of the building are upset about the return to the local mask mandate.

Short stated, "I understand why they are grumbling and rolling their eyes," "There was this notion that we would be done when it ended the first round."

Short stated that "my primary concern is the grocery workers." "I am concerned about people who use public transit. The waiters. The bartenders. The mandate is not enforced. Enforcement is left to the grocery workers. To the waiters. To the bartenders.

Short stopped, then, with an eye nod, smiled. "And to the leasing agents."

Short might have to retire from enforcement sooner than expected. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt challenged Kansas City's Mask Mandate in a lawsuit almost identical to one he filed in St. Louis County to repeal a mask mandate.

Schmitt, a Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate Seat, stated that he filed the lawsuit in support of residents to "stop this madness." Tishaura Jones (St. Louis Mayor) called Schmitt's lawsuit frivolous and politically self-serving. The St. Louis County Council eventually voted to repeal the mandate for the mask.

Quinton Lucas, a Kansas City Democrat, believes his city's mandate for masks will be upheld. He says it is procedurally different than St. Louis County's.

Virus cases in Jackson County (Mo.) have risen steadily. According to The Post's tracker, virus cases in Jackson County, Mo., which is home to Kansas City have risen nearly 600% since July 1.

Similar clashes have been witnessed between Florida's county and city leaders and Republican governors in Texas and Florida over the repeal of mandatory vaccinations and mandates for masks. This week, Dallas's city school leaders defied Governor. Greg Abbott, a Republican, announced that staff and students will have to wear masks at school buildings in response to rising coronavirus cases. Abbott issued an executive order last month that prohibited government agencies, including public schools from mandating vaccines or masks.

Many small-business owners are grateful to officials for issuing mandates such as the one issued by Berkeley officials August 2 requiring that indoor masks be used again.

"It makes me and my job a lot simpler," Leanne Shanszad, the Berkeley owner of Gold Leaf Cafe, said. She had been anxious about the new delta variant, so she reinstated mask requirements. "I must support those who work for me, whose job it is not to fight for customers' personal freedoms."

Even the youngest Americans admit they are willing to give up their lives for others.

Lilian Robbins is nine years old and has made masks a part her daily life. On Tuesday at Portland's Oregon Park, Lilian Robbins carried her mask to cover herself if she was too close to other people or needed to go to the bathroom.

Robbins stated that they have been doing this for more than a year. "We shouldn’t stop doing it now. There could still be a surge."

She said that she is hopeful she can get vaccinated before the end of September, or early October. However, she will still follow the rules of her elementary school.

She said, "It's just mask."


This report was contributed by Alissa Greenberg, Washington Post, Berkeley, Calif. Diamond reported from Washington, Mueller from Kansas City. ; Baumhardt, Portland, Ore.; Capochino Mines, Baton Rouge (La.

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