The new guidelines from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) come as the number of new coronavirus cases per day grows in the US, with the highly contagious Delta variant making up the majority of new infections.
The Capitol Police will start arresting visitors and staffers inside the House wing of the US Congress starting on 29 July if they refuse to wear masks regardless of a person’s vaccination status, Republican Congresswoman Kat Cammack revealed, citing a memo obtained from an unnamed officer of the force. She harshly criticised the new policy, which apparently goes in line with recent guidelines from the CDC, which are apparently highly unpopular with GOP members of Congress and governors.
Cammack blamed the move on Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and refused to follow the directive to wear masks indoors regardless of whether a person has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“I cannot comply with this tyrannical order”, Cammack said in a now-deleted tweet, adding in another, still active one: “This is not your House. This is the People’s House. Get it right”.
Cammack did not reveal why she linked the memo with the leader of the House Democrats, but members of the Republican Party largely dubbed the renewed mask policy a “political move” by the Democrats, and by Pelosi specifically. The House speaker’s office rejected the notion that she was behind the new orders for the Capitol Police, indicating that Pelosi does not have such power.
Some People in Congress More Equal Than Others
Congresswoman Cammack is in luck when it comes to her vow to defy the new rule, since the published memo clearly indicated that members of the House are to be spared arrest, as well as the staffers accompanying them. Instead, Capitol Police officers are obligated to first ask the unmasked people to put on face coverings and in the event of disobedience, report it to the House sergeant-at-arms. However, visitors of the House part of the building, as well as staffers who aren’t accompanying a House representative, are to be arrested by Capitol Police officers if they refuse to wear masks.
It is unclear what punishment, if any, will be applied to violators.
The order to arrest “mask dissidents” also does not affect people walking through the corridors of the Senate part of the Capitol. This is due to the upper chamber refusing to revive the indoor mask mandate for everyone.
The update to the CDC’s guidelines regarding masks came in response to a growing number of new COVID-19 cases in the US due to the spreading Delta variant and vaccination going slowly in some areas of the country. Some 69% of adult US citizens have received at least one shot of the vaccine, but not the second, while 60.2% have been fully vaccinated.
The CDC has not yet released the data that prompted it to walk back previous claims that vaccinated people will not have to wear masks ever again. At the same time, several Republican politicians and local health officials have pointed at a lack of scientific grounds for re-imposing masks mandate for those who have been vaccinated.
“While the CDC issued their guidance yesterday at about 3 p.m., they have not yet released their scientific reports on the data that underlies their recommendation. I think we owe it to New Yorkers to very carefully, as you say, review that information and understand its implications”, New York City Health and Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz stated.
COVID-19 vaccines do not guarantee that a person won’t get infected, but will instead protect a person against severe symptoms caused by the illness. At the same time, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explained that vaccinated people infected with COVID-19 still might spread the virus, which, in turn, endangers those who either could not get a jab or refuse to do so.