New Yorkers are being advised by health authorities to consider wearing masks during the Labor Day weekend as COVID-19 cases have spiked and amid a broader resurgence of pandemic hysteria that is fueling a “we will not comply” trend that opposes any new mandates.
NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul have urged New Yorkers to take extra precautions, including resorting to “proven prevention tools” like donning masks.
According to the latest data from the New York City Health Department, there have been 825 daily cases of COVID-19 on average over the past week. While this is several times higher than the seven-day average of 230 cases reported on July 4, it is far lower than the 2,000-plus cases around this time in 2022.
Even though overall COVID-19 indicators are much lower than a year ago, some institutions have started to adopt mask mandates, sparking pushback in some circles and a “we will not comply” trend on social media.
For instance, former President Donald Trump recently accused “left-wing lunatics” of fear-mongering about new COVID-19 variants in order to justify the reintroduction of lockdown policies and other mandates—all in a bid to rig the 2024 election.
“We will not shut down our schools. We will not accept your lockdowns. We will not abide by your mask mandates, and we will not tolerate your vaccine mandates,” the former president said in a video posted on Truth Social.
The purposefulness of mask mandates has also faced challenges from some in the scientific community, with a recent study linking extended mask use to excessive inhalation of toxic volatile organic compounds, which can have harmful effects on health.
New York Authorities Urge Precautions
In separate statements issued on Aug. 29, Dr. Vasan and Ms. Hochul urged New Yorkers to take extra precautions in the face of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
And a spokesperson for the New York City Health Department reportedly told the Daily Mail that, as COVID-19 cases rise, precautions like face masks may be “a good idea.”
Asked about the issue of masking recommendations, a spokesperson for the New York City Health Department told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that nothing about masking guidance has changed, while pointing to Dr. Vasan’s recent remarks on precautions.
Dr. Vasan said in an Aug. 29 statement that while the BA.2.86 variant of COVID-19 has not yet been detected in anyone in New York, it is “almost certainly circulating here.”
He added that, as cases rise, precautions become increasingly important, especially for those who are older or have underlying health conditions.
“Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, along with other proven prevention tools–like masking, testing, and staying home when sick–continue to be our best defense against COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses,” Dr. Vasana said.
In a similar vein, Ms. Hochul recommended extra precautions, also mentioning masks.
“While New Yorkers might want to be done with COVID-19, COVID-19 isn’t done with us,” Ms. Hochul said in a statement on Aug. 29.
Citing a recent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases, Ms. Hochul said: “I strongly urge everyone to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and their communities.”
“To keep New Yorkers safe, my administration will continue to monitor this situation, share information on the new boosters as soon as it’s available, and continue to make N-95 masks available statewide,” she said.
The warnings from government and health officials come amid a torrent of media reports about a new COVID-19 variant circulating, while President Joe Biden said last week that all Americans would likely be advised to get another booster.
Overall in the United States, there’s been an 18.8 percent rise in hospital admissions due to COVID-19 in the most recent week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over the same period, there’s been a 17.6 percent increase in COVID-19 deaths while test positivity is up 14.9 percent, per the CDC.
A CDC spokesperson told The Epoch Times on Aug. 29 that hospital admission levels “are currently low” for around 96 percent of health systems in the United States and that the agency’s advice for COVID-19 mitigation measures is tied to hospital admission levels.
The CDC has not issued any updated guidelines regarding mask mandates.
Mask Mandates Reappear
Even though overall COVID-19 indicators are much lower than a year ago, some institutions have begun reimposing masking requirements.
A handful of hospitals across the country have reinstated mandates, though some have required masks only for staff, nurses, and doctors, while patients and visitors are exempt.
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.
Bucking this trend is Northwell Health on Long Island, with the hospital telling Newsday that neither the number of patients nor the severity of the disease warrants a reinstatement of mask mandates for now.
Several other Long Island hospital systems told the outlet that they aren’t planning on bringing back mask mandates anytime soon—or not at all.
In Massachusetts, UMass Memorial Hospital confirmed in a statement on Aug. 24 that it would reimpose masking for staff, with patients and visitors exempt.
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.
‘Lunatic’ Ploy to Rig Election?
There has been pushback to the prospect of renewed COVID-19 mandates in the face of a resurgence of pandemic anxiety that some say is being whipped up by some media outlets and others.
President Trump said recently that fear-mongering about new COVID-19 variants was being done to justify policies that will make it easier to cheat in the 2024 election.
He made the remarks in a video posted on Aug. 30 on Truth Social, saying that his message should serve as a warning to every COVID-19 “tyrant” who not only wants to “take away our freedom” but who would be playing into the hands of those wanting to exploit COVID-19 restrictions to interfere in next year’s election.
“The left-wing lunatics are trying very hard to bring back COVID lockdowns and mandates with all of their sudden fear-mongering about the new variants that are coming,” President Trump said in the video.
He added that his political opponents are eager to leverage COVID-19 “hysteria” for political ends.
“They want to restart the COVID hysteria so they can justify more lockdowns, more censorship, more illegal drop boxes, more mail-in ballots, and trillions of dollars in payoffs to their political allies heading into the 2024 election,” the former president said.
“To every COVID tyrant who wants to take away our freedom, hear these words, we will not comply, so don’t even think about it,” he said.
President Trump has insisted he was robbed of victory in the 2020 presidential election due in part to last-minute changes to election rules that removed some guardrails for mail-in ballots and, at least in theory, made it easier to cheat.
While the former president lost nearly all of his election-related lawsuits, many were dismissed not on merit but on technicalities like the doctrine of laches, which basically says that a legal challenge was brought too late and prejudiced the defendant.