Coronavirus latest: Houston and Philadelphia recommend indoor mask wearing

Ron DeSantis has said Florida will not introduce face mask mandates or lockdowns, even with the state reporting among the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the US.

The governor of the country’s third-most populous state said on Thursday there had been recent “talk of people advocating at the federal level” for a compulsory mask mandate for children and adolescents attending school.

“We’re not doing that in Florida, OK? We need our kids to breathe,” DeSantis said during a press conference on Thursday.

“Parents can make decisions how they want to, and we wouldn’t restrict that, but we certainly wouldn’t have any mandates on students and on parents in the upcoming school year,” the Republican governor said, adding that the state “never will have” any more lockdowns or other mandates.

DeSantis has not been alone in batting away talk of mask mandates. Greg Abbott, Texas’s Republican governor, said this week that “kids will not be forced by governments or by schools to wear a mask in school” and also ruled out the prospect of a state mandate.

“With the Delta variant increasing, you probably will see an increase in the number of parents who are choosing to have the children vaccinated as well as an increase in teachers who have not yet been vaccinated probably going out and getting a vaccination,” Abbott said.

Top officials in the Biden administration are holding preliminary discussions about revising mask guidance for vaccinated Americans, in response to the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19, several media outlets have reported this week. The most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows fully vaccinated individuals to forgo masks in most outdoor and indoor settings.

A growing number of cities, counties and states have recommended that residents wear masks indoors even if they have completed their vaccine regimen. Los Angeles county has gone further than others and last weekend reinstated its mask mandate.

The CDC this month also said that fully vaccinated students and staff did not have to wear masks in school buildings, provided other guidelines could be met, such as appropriate physical distancing between desks and a low level of coronavirus spread in the local community. A recommendation on Monday from the American Academy of Pediatrics, calling for everyone over the age of two to wear a face mask when attending school, regardless of Covid-19 vaccination status, has generated some confusion and even prompted a response from Anthony Fauci that the CDC was “carefully looking” at health guidelines for schools.

Florida accounted for about 22 per cent of all new Covid-19 cases in the US over the past week, according to CDC data. Adjusted for population, its daily rate of about 38 infections per 100,000 people is second only to Arkansas and is more than triple the national average.

The Delta variant accounted for 36.1 per cent of sequenced genomes in the state during the four weeks ended July 3, but that is a lower level of prevalence than in at least 10 other states, according to the latest figures from the CDC.

Texas accounted for about 9 per cent of new coronavirus cases in the US over the past week, the third-highest proportion after Florida and California. It is averaging about 11 infections per 100,000 people a day, matching the national average.

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