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People wearing face masks in New Orleans

People wearing face masks walk on a street in New Orleans on August 3, 2021. (Photo: Lan Wei/Xinhua via Getty Images)

More Than Two-Thirds of US Adults Support Mask Mandates as Variants Spread

Fully vaccinated people were more likely to report that they plan to wear masks in public.

Julia Conley

Amid news of numerous Covid-19 variants circulating and reports of "breakthrough" cases in fully vaccinated people, a poll released Wednesday showed that a majority of adults in the U.S. think policymakers should impose mask mandates to protect public health.  

The Politico/Morning Consult survey (pdf) found that 69% of people supported local mask mandates, including 34% who said local officials should require masks in both outdoor and indoor public spaces. Thirty-five percent of respondents were only in favor of indoor mandates.
 
The enthusiasm for mask requirements comes days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a study showing that three-quarters of positive Covid-19 cases among Massachusetts residents who traveled to Barnstable County in early July were reported in people who had been fully vaccinated—suggesting that people can transmit the disease even after inoculation. 
 
The poll was taken in the days after that study was released, between July 31 and August 2, with 2,200 adults surveyed.
 
A majority of Republicans—52%—reported that they were opposed to mask mandates, and unvaccinated people were less likely than vaccinated respondents to say that they plan to wear masks in indoor public places regardless of mandates. Forty-eight percent of unvaccinated people said they would wear masks while 63% of vaccinated people said the same. 
 
Days before the CDC released the study of recent cases in Massachusetts, the agency issued new guidance recommending people wear face masks in public indoor places in high-risk areas—including more than 80% of U.S. counties—and calling for all public school teachers, students, staff, and visitors to wear masks when the new school year starts regardless of vaccination status.
 
The new guidelines from the CDC were met with relief from healthcare workers and public health experts.
 
Republican officials have derided public health guidance including mask mandates. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order last week barring public schools from requiring masks and threatened to "withhold the transfer of state funds, discretionary grant funds ... and declare the school district ineligible for competitive grants" if school officials disobeyed. 
 
Florida is currently the epicenter of the U.S. Covid surge, accounting for one in five cases nationally.
 
At least one school district reversed its plan to impose a mask mandate following the funding threat, but DeSantis's aggressive attack on public health measures have not been met with support from his constituents. On Wednesday, St. Pete Polls reported that only 44% of Florida voters approve of the governor's performance while 47% disapprove. 
 
Sixty-two percent of Floridians said they disagreed with DeSantis regarding school mask mandates.
 
In recent weeks, officials in Los Angeles County; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Atlanta; and Louisiana have announced mask mandates for indoor public places for most residents. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is considering a mandate as well.

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