Biden’s Covid coordinator says it’s time to go back to masking

President Biden’s COVID-19 coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, July 17, to voice his support for Los Angeles County bringing back its universal mask mandate on July 29.

Jha explained, “My view on this has been very clear, which is local jurisdictions, cities, counties, states should make decisions about mask mandates because communities are different and their patterns of transmission are different.”

Los Angeles County has seen an uptick in coronavirus cases that public health officials say is due to the BA.5 variant of the omicron strain. According to a map created by the CDC, 38 counties in California are in a “high” level of COVID presence, a designation that means there are 200 cases or more for every 100,000 people. Interestingly, a “medium” level of COVID presence is also designated at 200 cases for every 100,000 people, according to the CDC.

“CDC has very clear guidance on this as well through their COVID community levels,” continued Jha. “And the CDC recommendation is that when you’re in a high zone, that sort of orange zone as LA County is, you know, people wearing masks indoors is really important, and it really will make a difference.”

Early in the interview, Martha Raddatz of ABC’s “This Week” asked her guest, “You know, I have to say I’ve been traveling again this week, on airplanes, in airports, so few people wearing masks. And in New York City, where they have a 15 percent positivity rate, The New York Times described it as, kind of, a ‘meh’ reaction to this variant. So what do you do?”

“I think it’s really important to remind people of the science, the public health science. And the public health science is very clear,” replied Jha. “If you’re in a crowded indoor space, especially if it’s poorly ventilated, wearing a mask reduces your risk of infection and reduces your risk of spreading it to others.”

Earlier this month, Jha raised eyebrows when he boldly asserted, “The pandemic isn’t over,” adding, “The virus is still out there evolving and we’ve got to stay on our front footing here and continue to battle this thing.”

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