Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Rapidly Changing Mask Mandates Reveal Capitalism’s Hypocrisy

The U.S. is about to hit one million coronavirus deaths, but multiple states have just announced that they are lifting mask mandates, prioritizing (yet again) “going back to normal” over workers deciding how to return safely, using recommendations based on scientific research.

Facebook Twitter Share
Signs that say "Face Mask Required."

The U.S. is about to hit 1 million coronavirus deaths, but in the continuing push to “return to normal” as the Omicron surge recedes, multiple states have just announced that they are lifting mask mandates, with no regard for how this will impact workers’ lives. Lifting the mask mandates is one prong of the strenuous effort by the capitalist class and the government to “bring things back to normal,” despite many restrictions having already been lifted for quite some time. The state and the bosses are coming down hard against safer working conditions, which is further evinced by the other “reopening” measures, such as keeping schools open and limiting remote options during the Omicron surge.

New York’s indoor mask mandate ended February 10. Under this requirement businesses had to ask customers for proof of full vaccination or require mask-wearing at all times. Masks in New York are still required on public transportation, in schools, in childcare or health care settings, and at group residential facilities, but the school mask mandate is in effect only until February 21 and has not yet been renewed. Other states that are lifting indoor mask mandates are Rhode Island, California, and Delaware. Some states, such as Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Connecticut, and Illinois, are lifting mask mandates in schools specifically.

The government has consistently instituted insufficient Covid-19 policies, as illustrated by the U.S. death toll from the disease: 900,000. This and the wavering guidelines, combined with pandemic fatigue, have helped exhaust and confuse many workers. According to a national poll, 60 percent of U.S. adults say they’ve felt confused as a result of changes to public health officials’ recommendations on how to slow the spread of the coronavirus, up seven percentage points since last summer.

Of course people feel this way. They have just been told that the pandemic is essentially over and that they should stop wearing masks. Yet only a month and a half ago, scientists and doctors were telling the public that cloth masks were useless and that people should be wearing N95 masks everywhere to protect themselves from Omicron. During the height of the Omicron surge, the CDC shortened isolation lengths from 10 days to five, didn’t provide guidance around “testing out” of isolation with a confirmed negative test result, and recommended that asymptomatic Covid-positive healthcare workers keep coming in to work.

The CDC has not yet supported lifting mask mandates, and Dr. Walensky, director of the CDC, has claimed that hospitalizations and death rates are still too high to lift indoor mask mandates everywhere. But it will only be a matter of time until they change their tune to suit the capitalist reopening agenda.

The Biden administration provided four at-home rapid tests, once, and it has started to distribute some N95 masks, but that’s pretty much the extent of the central federal response. As with the handling of vaccine distribution, individual states can choose whether to institute public health measures like mask mandates or ventilation standards. The idea that we are essentially in “post-pandemic” times — reflected in the lifting of mask mandates, the ending of eviction moratoriums and public assistance programs, and turning the conversation into one about individuals’ choices — will hurt the working class and oppressed the most, especially those living with disabilities. Without consistently applying safety measures that are based on existing data and scientific recommendations, workers who have already been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 will continue to be put at disproportionate risk. For those who are disabled, and especially those who are suffering from long Covid-19, these rollbacks can mean death.As we’ve stated here, only workers and community members together can collectively decide how and when to roll back specific pandemic mitigation measures. Students are tired of online learning — rightfully so. Parents must go to work and often don’t have anyone to leave their kids with. Many workers are going to be the ones most exposed to Covid-19, and they are worried that, if left to the devices of politicians eager to drop protective measures to increase their chances of reelection, their workplaces may as well become infection hubs. This situation is the direct result of how Trump, Biden, governors, and mayors have dealt with the pandemic. Chicago teachers showed us the way — bringing forward the concerns of students and parents as well as other education workers in their fight for remote learning after the winter break. Now, as cases decline, a new variant of Omicron has started to emerge. In the coming days, how to safely reopen should be decided by those most directly impacted: the workers themselves.

Facebook Twitter Share

K.S. Mehta

K.S. Mehta is a research assistant in New York City.

Daniel Alfonso

Daniel is a member of Left Voice.

United States

A horizontal testing scantron with almost all of the bubbles filled in

The Changes to AP African American Studies Are “Absolutely Political”: A Former College Board Worker Speaks Out

A former College Board worker explains how the company's "apolitical" pedagogical approaches privilege right wing ideas, even as the right wing accuses them of spreading "wokeism."

Jess DuBois

February 4, 2023

Massive Looting of Public Resources at Stake in District Detroit Redevelopment Scheme

Billionaire developers in Detroit have proposed capturing almost one billion dollars in public money to fund their newest project. The deal is far from sealed, but organized community opposition will be necessary to prevent approvals from sailing through.

Rita Singer

February 3, 2023

In Standoff Over Cop City, Police Are the Real Terrorists

For over two years, the protests and occupations against a police training center in Atlanta, Georgia flew under the radar of the mainstream press. Now, after the police murder of land defender Manuel Teran and the arrest of 19 protesters on charges of domestic terrorism, the standoff has gained national attention. But in the battle to defend the Weelaunee Forest and the people of Atlanta from the development of the massive “Cop City” training center, it is the Atlanta Police Department and the state that have been acting like terrorists.

James Dennis Hoff

January 27, 2023

Say His Name! Justice for Tyre Nichols

As the video footage of the police murder of Tyre Nichols is released today, it will be important for everyone who is against police violence to stand in solidarity and defend and join in the mobilizations demanding justice for his murder.

Tristan Taylor

January 27, 2023


Protesters after the murder of Tyre Nichols.

‘We Shall Not be Moved’: Maintaining and Uplifting Black Struggle during Black History Month

This Black History Month, let's raise the banner of Black liberation and the need for a revolutionary socialist strategy that, among other things, shows the inextricable link between class exploitation and racial oppression.

Tristan Taylor

February 6, 2023
All That's Left, the podcast from Left Voice.

#AllThatsLeftPod: A History of the U.S. Revolutionary Left and Trotskyism

In this episode of the podcast, we're joined by historian Bryan Palmer to discuss the origins of the U.S. revolutionary left and Trotskyism, James P. Cannon, and socialists' role in class struggle in the 1920s and 30s.

Left Voice

February 6, 2023
High-angle view of protests in France on January 31 against President Macron's pension reforms.

Historic Protests in France: Where to for the French Working Class?

After two of the largest days of protest in over a decade, with unprecedented union support and student turnout, the workers and youth of France must push unions to take up a militant strategy to defeat not only this latest pension reform but also Macron and his government.

Antoine Ramboz

February 6, 2023
Polish soldiers, a zoom-in on a Polish flag on their uniform.

Poland Plans to Become the Most Powerful Military Power in Europe

The war in Ukraine has become a powerful driver of the militarization and rearmament of NATO member countries. Poland now plans to double its military spending with the goal of building the largest land army in Europe.

Otto Fors

February 6, 2023