MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to support the return of face mask mandates as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns the coronavirus’ evolution into the more contagious Delta variant is getting more and more people sick.
The CDC wants officials to “acknowledge the war has changed” because the variant appears to cause more severe illness, and it spreads as easily as chickenpox, an internal federal health document said, according to The Washington Post.
Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious diseases expert with Florida International University, said new CDC data shows the average infected person is passing the variant on to six to eight other people. Research shows vaccinated people who got infected carried about the same amount of the virus as those who were not vaccinated.
“If you overwhelm the protection you develop from the vaccine, you are going to get infected, and you are going to have symptoms most likely and you are going to be contagious to others,” Marty said.
Marty said face mask use and vaccines are two of the many preventive measures people need to be taking. She said data shows the vaccinated are still much more protected against severe disease and less likely to catch it.
“Since no single public health measure is 100%; you have to layer your protections,” Marty said.
Coronavirus infections rose 50% this week in Florida with 110,000 new coronavirus cases up from 73,000 last week. COVID hospitalizations are also increasing and the death toll surpassed 39,000 with 409 more this week.
Both Miami-Dade and Broward counties mandated face masks in government buildings. Retailers are making changes. Walmart and Publix announced it’s requiring all employees, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face masks and staff will encourage customers to wear face masks too.
The CDC recommended, “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.” In response, Broward County Public Schools mandated the use of face masks starting on the first day of school Aug. 18.
“There is no way in good conscious that I could bring anybody back into a school environment on the bus, the cafeteria, and not have a mask mandate,” said Rosalind Osgood, the School Board of Broward County’s chair. “That is a moral decision.”
Miami-Dade County Public Schools students return to class Aug. 23. DeSantis said he wants to prohibit face mask mandates at public schools in Florida.
“I have (three) young kids. My wife and I are not going to do the mask with the kids. We never have; we won’t. I want to see my kids smiling. I want them having fun,” DeSantis said.
Gelber asked DeSantis to consider the science. In his letter, he added a graph highlighting how hospitalizations plummeted when Miami-Dade County put a mask mandate in place — and how it surged once again when DeSantis banned the measures.
“I just think that the governor has to come to the reality that we are in the midst of a surge that’s unprecedented in the country,” Gelber said. “There is no state doing worse than we are right now.”