These Cities Are Going Back to Masks as Delta Variant Cases Rise

As the COVID-19 Delta variant has continued to spread across the U.S., some major areas have decided to encourage residents to start wearing protective face masks again.

In Arkansas, the state's legislature previously passed a law to end government-imposed mask mandates, but on Thursday, several Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter calling on the Republican-controlled legislature to lift the ban.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Health said, "As cases continue to increase, including variants of concern like the Delta variant, it is crucial that all eligible Arkansans get the COVID-19 vaccine. These vaccines are safe and effective, and they are the best way to protect yourself and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities."

In California, Los Angeles County was the first area to reinstate a mask mandate amid rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations related to the novel virus.

In a statement, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said, "Community transmission of COVID-19 has rapidly increased from Moderate to Substantial, based on the trend in daily new cases of COVID-19. The Los Angeles County Health Office order will be modified to require masking for everyone while indoors, regardless of vaccination status, as Los Angeles County sees more than a seven-times increase in new cases since the June 15 reopening."

Los Angeles County Health Officer Muntu Davis said in the statement: "We expect to keep masking requirements in place until we begin to see improvements in our community transmission of COVID-19. But waiting for us to be at high community transmission level before making a change would be too late."

Shortly after the mask mandate was reinstated in Los Angeles County, health officials in California's Bay Area issued a statement recommending the wearing of masks when indoors.

"The Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma and the City of Berkeley recommend that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places to ensure easy verification that all unvaccinated people are masked in those settings and as an extra precautionary measure for all," the Berkley city manager's office said in a statement.

On Thursday, Atlanta Public Schools announced they will require mask wearing for all students and staff at the start of the new school year beginning on August 5. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued updated guidelines for schools which stated that students and staff that are vaccinated against COVID-19 did not need to wear a mask.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that all students and staff in schools should wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

In Clark County, Nevada, officials announced on Thursday they will reinstate a mask mandate for all court facilities. According to the administrative order signed by State Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty and District Court Chief Judge Linda Bell, all members of the public visiting the court facilities, as well as judges and court employees, are now required to wear masks when indoors.

On Wednesday, the city of New Orleans issued a "mask advisory" that encouraged residents to wear masks when indoors.

In a statement, New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno cited the city's "inadequate vaccination rate," when announcing the mask advisory.

"People who continue to refuse to take the lifesaving COVID vaccine are now also putting the entire community in jeopardy. We must take action now to slow the rapid spread of the Delta variant," Avegno said.

While some areas of the U.S. have reinstated their mask mandate, Hawaii Governor David Ige recently announced he was keeping a requirement in place to mandate masks when residents are indoors. According to the Associated Press, Ige said he plans to keep the state's mask mandate in place until at least 70 percent of the population is vaccinated.

The return of mask wearing being encouraged comes as the COVID-19 Delta variant has spread across the nation and now accounts for at least 83 percent of all COVID-19 cases, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

In COVID-19 hot spots, such as Arkansas and Missouri, mask mandates are being discussed but have not yet been imposed.

According to KTVI in Missouri, St. Louis County executives recently said a new mask order was possible.

"The vaccine is available, but unfortunately the vaccination rate in our community has not been high enough to prevent spread of the Delta variant," Dr. Clay Dunagan, acting head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said according to KTVI. "We now need to return to masking to combat this new wave of infections."

Newsweek reached out to the state health department in Missouri for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Cities that have returned to mask wearing
As cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant continue to rise, several cities across the U.S. have asked residents to begin wearing masks again. Above, visitors walk past face mask signs along Decatur Street in the French Quarter on July 14, 2020 in New Orleans. Sean Gardner/Getty