On Thursday afternoon, Democrats in the Senate raised objections to a proposed bill put forth by Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio. The bill, the Freedom to Breathe Act, aims to prohibit federal mask mandates from being enforced until the end of the year 2024.
Because of the Democrat objections, Vance’s bill will now navigate its way through various Senate committees before potentially returning to the floor for a vote. Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, voiced his concerns on the Senate floor, claiming that the bill serves as a distraction and is “fundamentally misleading.” Markey emphasized the importance of affording local officials the “full range of healthcare options.”
Calling the bill a “red herring,” Markey says the proposal is designed to take attention away from the “gimmicks” of the GOP. He claims that pursuing the bill risks public safety by limiting the “abilities of healthcare professionals.”
In response, Senator Vance, a Republican from Ohio, clarified that his proposed legislation does not seek to prohibit mask-wearing. Instead, it empowers local communities to make their own decisions regarding mask mandates, ensuring that no federal mandates are imposed.
Vance explained, “This legislation does not prevent anyone from wearing a mask. What I aim for is to protect the freedom of schoolchildren who should not be ejected from class simply for not wearing a mask. We often face respiratory challenges during the fall, and perhaps this fall and winter will bring even greater challenges. It is my belief that our children need us to approach respiratory issues without causing unnecessary panic, anxiety, and stress, as we have witnessed in recent years.”
Earlier in the week, Vance introduced the legislation, which, if passed, would prohibit any federal official, including the President, from implementing a mask mandate until the end of the following year. The bill’s scope includes the cessation of mandates for domestic air travel, public transit systems, primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities. It would also prevent airlines, transit authorities, and educational institutions from denying service to individuals not wearing masks.
Co-sponsors of the bill include Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, Mike Braun of Indiana, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Katie Britt of Alabama.
COVID hospitalizations climbed nearly 22% during the last week in August, and the CDC is predicting further increases in new variants over the coming months. Following the announcement regarding the BA.2.86, the CDC said the agency’s advice on COVID-19 protections, like wearing masks, is unchanged.
As new COVID-19 variants are spreading across the country, some schools and businesses are reinstating mask mandates. Lionsgate, a prominent mass media and entertainment company, briefly enforced mask-wearing for employees on two floors of its five-story office building in Santa Monica, California, before later rescinding the policy in late August.
In New York, numerous hospital systems, including United Health Services, Auburn Community Hospital, and Upstate Medical, have reintroduced mandatory mask policies to curb the virus’s resurgence during the summer surge.
In late August, Morris Brown College in Atlanta initially mandated face masks for students and employees on campus for a two-week period, although this measure was subsequently lifted. Similarly, Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, reinstated a mask mandate for students and staff following multiple COVID-19 cases within a single class.
And healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente implemented a mask mandate in August for all individuals – staff, patients, and visitors – at its Santa Rosa, California facilities.
The resurgence of face masks presents yet another headache for President Biden, who is already facing many challenges in his bid for reelection. Many voters, still grappling with pandemic fatigue, have reached the point of refusing to comply with mask and vaccine requirements should more mandates be issued. If Biden reinstates mask mandates, it will spell disaster for his chances of returning to the White House in 2024.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre affirmed the administration’s commitment to “collaborating closely with public health experts and medical professionals to monitor the virus.” Her statements have, so far, not included any potential calls for mask mandates.
The refusal among Democrats to back the common-sense Freedom to Breathe Act speaks volumes for their intentions. COVID panic has been a money maker for the party, and the lockdowns and mandates helped them “secure” the 2020 election. There’s still plenty of time before the 2024 election to stir up more panic and reinstate the policies that guaranteed their “victory” in the last election. But Democrats should take heed: Americans were fooled once, and they will not be fooled again.