Enlarge /. VANCOUVER, Oct. 24, 2020 – A voter wearing a face mask is seen outside a polling station during Provincial Election Day in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Oct. 24, 2020.
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As U.S. coronavirus cases skyrocket to the highest levels in the pandemic to date, prominent public health experts are calling for a nationwide mandate to wear masks to contain the spread of disease.
The call comes when fierce disputes over masks continue in locations where face coverage requirements are already in place.
In an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday, leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci called for a national mandate. "We're not in a good place," said Fauci, citing the sustained, record-breaking increase in the daily number of cases.
The current 7-day average of new cases every day is over 74,000, the highest level ever during the pandemic, and the daily case numbers are still rising. Hospitals in many states are congested as beds and intensive care units are full. As of Wednesday, more than 45,000 people with COVID-19 had been hospitalized. The number is expected to rise, and a devastating surge in deaths is likely to follow.
Fauci noted that according to data from countries better off than the US, masking and other "low-tech" efforts like physical distancing and avoidance of crowds are effectively controlling the virus. "There is no doubt," he said. "It makes a difference."
Fauci also addressed concerns about future bans. The idea is now almost "radioactive," said Fauci. "Well, if you don't want to shut down, at least do the basic things," he said.
Fauci's points were in line with former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who on Sunday called for a nationwide mask mandate in an article published in the Wall Street Journal.
"The inconvenience [of wearing masks] would allow the country to maintain health capacity and keep more schools and businesses open," he wrote. “Studies show that widespread use of masks can reduce the spread. But even if masks are only incrementally helpful, they are some of the most economically cost-effective and burdensome options for reducing spread. "
In executing such a mandate, Gottlieb said that fines and law enforcement involvement are not strictly necessary. "States should be able to decide how to enforce a mandate," he wrote, "but the goal should be to make masks a social and cultural norm, not a political statement … Mandate masks are only have become fissile because they were designed that way. " some politicians and commentators, ”he added.
This split has continued to lead to violent clashes across the country. The day Gottlieb's Oped ran, a security guard at a Chicago shoe store was stabbed 27 times after asking two nurses to put on masks and use an in-store hand sanitizer. Illinois has a statewide mandate to wear masks in public and at work.
The attack, which was caught on surveillance cameras, came after the sisters rejected public health measures and the security guard told them to leave. They allegedly threw a trash can on his head, repeatedly stabbed him in the back, neck and arms with a "comb knife" and also kicked him in the head and body. The guard broke off and was able to keep the couple in the shop until the police arrived.
The police arrested the sisters, who are being detained for attempted first degree murder. The guard was taken to a local hospital where police said he was in critical condition, according to the Washington Post.
Other shoe store employees were reportedly told not to speak to the media, but the Chicago Sun-Times spoke to the manager of a nearby clothing store who said:
I'm a little cautious because we often have to ask customers to wear their masks and they get angry and don't want to. We recently had a customer who refused to wear a mask and we had to call the police. It's crazy.
The breathtaking attack on the security guard is just the latest in a string of violent masked encounters, the Washington Post notes. In September, an 80-year-old man died of blunt violent trauma to the head after being bumped by a maskless man in a mask argument in a New York bar. In August, a Michigan man died after being stabbed to death by another customer in a quality dairy store who refused to wear a mask when confronted by a grocery store employee.
In July, California police charged a grocery security guard and his wife with murder after an argument with a maskless customer. That same month in New Jersey, a maskless woman broke another woman's leg during a mask fight at a Staples' house. And in May, a security guard at a Family Dollar store in Michigan was killed after telling a customer that her child had to wear a mask to enter the store.
The violence and myriad other disputes over masks across the country stemmed from politics, Gottlieb and Fauci suggested.
"We have to get away from it," said Fauci on Wednesday in an interview with JAMA. When asked how exactly one could break away from this split, Fauci suggested a hard reckoning.
"Well, we get there by examining the consequences of what happens if we don't," he said. “We have to shake each other by the neck and say, 'Look at what's going on, look at the data, it speaks for itself. & # 39; We are in a very difficult situation … Let's put aside those extraordinary excuses for not [wearing masks and distancing themselves]. "
While cases and hospital stays continue to rise shockingly, the US has already recorded more than 8.86 million cases and nearly 228,000 people have died.