Capitol Police to Arrest House Staffers, Visitors Not Wearing Masks After CDC Policy Reversal
18:06 GMT 29.07.2021 (Updated: 13:21 GMT 06.08.2022)
The new guidelines from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) come as the number of daily coronavirus cases grows in the US, with the highly contagious Delta variant making up the majority of new infections.
Capitol Police will start arresting visitors and staffers inside the House wing of the US Congress starting 29 July if they refuse to wear masks, regardless of a person's vaccination status, Republican Congresswoman Kat Cammack has revealed, citing a memo obtained from an unnamed officer of the force. She harshly criticised the new policy, which is apparently in line with recent guidelines from the CDC
that are seemingly highly unpopular with GOP governors and members of Congress.
Cammack blamed the move on Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
and refused to follow the directive to wear masks indoors regardless of whether a person has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
"I cannot comply with this tyrannical order", Cammack said in a now-deleted tweet, adding in another, still active post: "This is not your House. This is the People's House. Get it right".
Cammack did not reveal what prompted her to link the memo with the leader of the House Democrats, but members of the Republican Party have largely dubbed the renewed mask policy a "political move" by Democrats, and by Pelosi specifically. The House speaker's office rejected the notion that she was behind the new orders for the Capitol Police, indicating that Pelosi does not have such power.
Some in Congress More Equal Than Others
Cammack is in luck when it comes to her vow to defy the new rule, as the published memo clearly indicates that members of the House are to be spared arrest, as well as staffers accompanying them. Instead, Capitol Police are obligated to first ask the unmasked people to put on face coverings and, in the event of a refusal, report it to the House sergeant-at-arms. Visitors to the House area of the Capitol building, as well as staffers who are not accompanying a House representative, are to be detained by Capitol Police if they refuse to wear masks.
It is unclear what punishment, if any, aside from being escorted off the premises, will be applied to violators.
The order to arrest so-called "mask dissidents" also does not affect people walking through the corridors of the Senate side of the Capitol. This is due to the upper chamber of the US Congress refusing to revive the indoor mask mandate for everyone.
The update to the CDC guidelines regarding masks came in response to a growing number of new COVID-19 cases in the US, due to the spreading Delta variant, as well as
a slower-than-normal vaccination rollout in some states and counties, particularly those that voted for Trump in the most recent presidential elections. Some 69% of adult US citizens have received at least one shot of the vaccine, but not the second, while 60.2% have been fully vaccinated.
The CDC has not yet released the data that prompted it to walk back a previous judgment that vaccinated people will not have to wear masks
. At the same time, Republican politicians and some health officials have suggested a lack of scientific grounds for reimposing a mask mandate for those who have been vaccinated.
"While the CDC issued their guidance yesterday at about 3 p.m., they have not yet released their scientific reports on the data that underlies their recommendation. I think we owe it to New Yorkers to very carefully, as you say, review that information and understand its implications", New York City Health and Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz stated.
COVID-19 vaccines do not guarantee that a person will not become infected, but will instead protect a person against severe symptoms caused by the illness. At the same time, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explained that vaccinated people infected with COVID-19 can still spread the virus, which, in turn, endangers those who have not yet gotten their jab or refuse to do so.