One of the most prominent figures of the COVID-19 pandemic during the Trump administration has recently said that mask mandates are no longer necessary.
As hospitalizations for COVID-19 have surged in recent months, some parts of the country are starting to advocate for a return to mask mandates to stop the spread once again.
One person who’s not in favor of doing that is Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the COVID-19 response coordinator during the height of the pandemic when former President Donald Trump was in the White House back in 2020.
Appearing on the Newsmax program “The Count” recently, Birx said about masks:
“Four years in, we don’t need to mandate. We need to actually empower people with the information that they need for themselves and their families, because every family is different. And by the way, outside is safe, and playgrounds are safe.”
Despite those words, there are some places that have put mask mandates back in place.
Atlanta’s Morris Brown College put a restriction on gatherings for two weeks and mandated that all students wear masks, as reported positive COVID-19 cases have spiked. Over in Los Angeles, Lionsgate – a studio in Hollywood – put mask requirements in place briefly for on two floors of its five-floor office building.
Some health-care systems did the same. Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, California, put mask mandates in place at its facilities. In New York, hospital systems such as Upstate Medical, Auburn Community Hospital and United Health Services all implemented new mask mandates.
In the middle of August, Upstate Medical Center – the largest central New York employer, located in Syracuse – put a three-week mask mandate in place for all patients, visitors and staff who were in clinical areas.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data in early August that showed hospitalizations across the country due to COVID-19 spiked nearly 19% in just one week. According to the same data set, deaths due to COVID-19 increased by more than 21% for the same time period.
Despite these concerning spikes in statistics, Birx did issue some slight warnings about relying on COVID-19 vaccines to fight against the virus – specifically if those vaccinations are based on earlier variants of the virus that aren’t the dominant ones in circulation right now.
Current knowledge, she said, can help to identify the demographics that could require immunization.
As she explained:
“You know what is amazing to me is we work so hard to bring innovation. The American spirit of innovation and science and data and creating these great new vaccines which were made on an mRNA platform.
“So, you could switch them out and make them quickly, and instead of doing that, we’re basing vaccines on old variants rather than the new variants, and we know today exactly who needs to be immunized.”
In other words, Birx was saying that the old way of approaching COVID-19 – including both vaccines and mask mandates – simply isn’t as relevant today as it once was.