There’s no sign of widespread COVID-19 mandates in the US. Republicans are warning of them anyway

FILE - Infowars founder Alex Jones takes the witness stand to testify at the Sandy Hook defamation damages trial at Connecticut Superior Court in Waterbury, Conn. Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. A Connecticut jury’s ruling that Jones pay $965 to people he targeted with Sandy Hook lies is heartening to people disgusted by the muck of disinformation. Just don’t expect conspiracy theories to go away. (Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, Pool, File)

NEW YORK — As Americans fend off a late summer COVID-19 spike and prepare for a fresh vaccine rollout, Republicans are raising familiar fears that government-issued lockdowns and mask mandates are next.

It’s been a favorite topic among some of the GOP’s top presidential contenders. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters that people are “lurching toward” COVID-19 restrictions and “there needs to be pushback.” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott posted online that the “radical Left” seeks to bring back school closures and mandates. And former President Donald Trump urged congressional Republicans to stop the Biden administration from bringing back COVID-19 “mandates, lockdowns or restrictions of any kind.”


“The radical Democrats are trying hard to restart COVID hysteria,” Trump told supporters in Rapid City, South Dakota, during a recent campaign stop. “I wonder why. Is there an election coming up by any chance?”

While some individual schools and colleges have implemented temporary mask requirements, there is no sign that anyone in federal or state leadership is considering widespread COVID-19 restrictions, requirements or mask mandates. The administrations of several Democratic governors denied that any such moves are even under discussion. The overriding sentiment is to leave the decisions to individuals.

“No COVID-19 public health restrictions or mask requirements are being considered by the Murphy administration,” said Christi Peace, spokesperson for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

“There are no impending mass lockdowns or mask mandates for New Mexico,” said Jodi McGinnis Porter, spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Public Health.

It was largely the same message from Democratic governors’ offices in several other states that responded to an inquiry about whether any COVID-19 mandates were under consideration. That included Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Oregon.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, made clear his opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns as well as mask and vaccine mandates when he was campaigning for office last year: “This is an area where I think folks got it wrong,” he said of school and business shutdowns. His office echoed the same sentiment in its response to the AP this week, saying, “The administration’s view is that there is no need to impose restrictions.”

In the two most populous Democratic-led states, California and New York, the state health departments recommend getting the updated vaccine, but have no requirements for the shot or mask wearing. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul was asked during a news conference Wednesday about whether she would consider mask or vaccine mandates: “We are in a place where we’re seeing low numbers; not requiring such actions today,” she said.

Elisabeth Shepard, spokesperson for Oregon’s Democratic governor, Tina Kotek, noted that the federal public health emergency for the virus outbreak ended in May.

“Currently, COVID-19 lockdowns and mask mandates are not being discussed and the governor has no plans to institute these measures,” she said.

Still, the misleading narrative has proven a convenient scare tactic for Republicans in their efforts to woo voters who see Democrats as oppressive leaders targeting their freedoms.

The GOP presidential hopefuls hammering this message in the last week join a chorus of conservative lawmakers and far-right pundits who have spent the last month warning that tyrannical COVID-19 measures are looming.

In August, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed an anonymous “high-level manager in the TSA” and an unnamed “Border Patrol-connected” source told him that Transportation Security Administration workers would soon need to wear masks and that COVID-19 lockdowns would return in December.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the claims were “utterly false,” but they still were amplified by influential Republicans, including Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

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