The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has responded to speculation that the agency could be bringing back mask mandates on public transportation or in federal officials.
A spokesperson for the CDC told The Epoch Times on Aug. 29 that COVID-19 hospital admission levels “are currently low for more than 96 percent” of the United States, but that the agency recommended that transportation workers, travelers, passengers, and others get the COVID-19 vaccine “before they travel.”
“Anyone may choose to wear a mask in crowded or poorly ventilated indoor areas, including on public transportation and in transportation hubs at any time,” the CDC spokesperson said.
The agency also doesn’t currently have any mandate in effect, and the “CDC’s advice for individual and community actions around COVID-19 are tied to hospital admission levels,” the spokesperson said.
Earlier this week, a CDC spokesperson told NBC News that there have been no agency discussions about bringing back mask mandates, which comes as a handful of hospitals and offices around the country started reimposing them this month. There has also been speculation that federal officials may bring back mandates or even push for lockdowns, similar to what happened in 2020.
At the same time, the CDC hasn’t issued any updated guidelines regarding mask mandates on its website.
About a week ago, a report from Alex Jones’s InfoWars claimed that a high-level Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official, who wasn’t named, informed him that lockdowns and mandates would be coming back in the fall. That person cited discussions among agency officials as the basis for his claims.
However, a spokesperson for the TSA told The Epoch Times on Aug. 25 that those claims are false and that the agency “does not have any new requirements and there has not been any meeting on the topic.”
While the “TSA has authority to impose mask-related requirements to implement mask orders from the CDC related to transportation systems,” the “TSA is not imposing mask-related requirements at this time,” the agency stated.
Benjamin Haynes, a spokesperson for the CDC, told The Associated Press at about the same time that reports of upcoming lockdowns are “utterly false.”
Over the past several weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on the rise across the country, according to CDC data. Despite the increase, it’s among the lowest levels of hospitalization recorded since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
“An upswing is not a surge; it’s not even a wave,” Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer for Tufts Medicine, told ABC News last week. “What we’re seeing is a very gradual and small upward trajectory of cases and hospitalizations, without deaths really going along, which is great news.”
On Jan. 29, 2021, the CDC issued an order requiring people to wear masks on public transportation, including airplanes, and in transportation hubs that was implemented and enforced by the TSA. A federal judge in Florida struck down the mandate on April 18, 2022, finding that the CDC failed to justify the order and that it didn’t follow proper rulemaking procedures.
Over the past two weeks, a handful of hospitals across the United States have started to reinstate mandates, although some have required masks only for staff, nurses, and doctors, while patients and visitors are exempt from the rule. However, a few have made masking mandatory for anyone who goes into the facility.
In Massachusetts, UMass Memorial Hospital confirmed in a statement on Aug. 24 that it would reimpose masking for staff. Patients and visitors are exempt from the mandate, it stated.
“We have continued to see a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 positive employees over the past two weeks, which has led to exposures of both fellow caregivers and patients,” the statement read. “In response to this, as a protective measure for our staff and patients, effective immediately we are requiring mandatory caregiver masking for all patient encounters in all licensed clinical areas.”
In New York, several upstate hospitals have required masking for anyone who goes into the facilities. They include United Health Services in Binghamton, Auburn Community Hospital in Auburn, and University Hospital in Syracuse.
In California, a Kaiser Permanente facility in Santa Rosa said it would reimpose its mask mandate, but it then issued a statement several days later saying it only applied to staff.
“Our intent was to communicate that as of Tuesday, we have expanded the masking requirement for our employees and physicians to medical offices and clinic settings; we apologize for any confusion among Press Democrat readers,” the hospital’s updated statement to local media said.
Other than hospitals, Lionsgate studios in Southern California and a college in Atlanta also announced the return of masking. But as with Kaiser Permanente, Lionsgate later said that it won’t be requiring masks and it suggested that the company was being pressured by the Los Angeles Department of Health.
“The LA County Department of Public Health notified us yesterday that we could lift the mask requirements, effective immediately, and we have,” the studio told TheWrap. The statement added that “Lionsgate never changed its own mask policy. The LA County Department of Health ordered us to institute the temporary masking requirement after we reported a cluster of COVID cases to them and we have an obligation to comply with their orders.”
From The Epoch Times