New York governor set to drop state’s mask mandate – US politics live

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “New York governor set to drop state’s mask mandate – US politics live” was written by Joan E Greve in Washington, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 9th February 2022 16.02 UTC

As several Democratic governors move to relax mask mandates because of the decrease in coronavirus cases, Republicans are accusing them of belatedly embracing a new approach to pandemic response.

“Keep in mind as you see blue states lift mask mandates and Democrats try to claim credit: The science on COVID hasn’t changed. The political science has,” Congressman Brad Wenstrup said on Twitter. “Remember: Republicans have fought to allow Americans to sensibly and methodically move past the pandemic. Democrats haven’t.

Wenstrup’s message was retweeted by House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who has previously accused Joe Biden of failing to deliver “a realistic response to the virus”.

Of course, Republican governors have been criticized for refusing to enact policies, such as mask mandates in schools, that would have helped to limit the spread of the virus during past surges in cases.

Now that coronavirus cases are decreasing across the country, a growing number of Democratic governors seem more comfortable with relaxing some of the restrictions they put in place to respond to those surges.

The US postal service (USPS) is facing the mounting fury of the Biden administration, Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups over its plan to spend billions of dollars on a new fleet of gasoline-powered mail delivery trucks that critics say will upend a White House goal to slash planet-heating gases.

The USPS has outlined plans to spend $11.3bn on as many as 165,000 new delivery trucks over the next decade to refresh what is one of the largest civilian vehicle fleets in the world. The familiar boxy white trucks with red and blue stripes will be replaced by a new design that has been likened in appearance to a duck.

A full 90% of the fleet, however, will have traditional gas-powered engines, with just 10% being electric. While the new trucks will come with air conditioning, this means their fuel efficiency will be strikingly poor at just 8.2 miles per gallon (3.56 km per litre).

This is worse than all of the most popular gas-hungry trucks currently on sale in the US and is even less efficient than the original Hummer, a vehicle infamous for the vast amount of fuel it burned through.

“We were optimistic the postal service would listen to us about the benefits of an electric fleet, but it doubled down on its inexplicable preference for polluting trucks,” said Adrian Martinez, senior attorney at Earthjustice.

Read the Guardian’s full report:

The White House pandemic response team will soon hold a briefing, and its members will likely be asked about the push to ease mask requirements in several Democratic-led states.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden will participate in a roundtable with CEOs of electric utilities this afternoon to discuss his Build Back Better economic agenda. The secretary of energy, Jennifer Granholm, is also expected to attend.

Both of those events are still coming up, so stay tuned.

‘It’s time to give people their lives back,’ DCCC chair says

Sean Patrick Maloney, the chair of House Democrats’ campaign arm, has said it is “time to give people their lives back,” as the country’s number of coronavirus cases decreases.

“Democrats’ plan to fight COVID is working – cases are down & vaccines are widely available. Now, it’s time to give people their lives back,” the congressman said on Twitter. “With science as our guide, we’re ready to start getting back to normal.”

Maloney, whose district includes some of the northern suburbs of New York City, also applauded Joe Biden and New York Governor Kathy Hochul for their pandemic response policies.

“We are making tremendous progress thanks to their strong, science-based leadership,” Maloney said. “I fully support the decision to roll back mask mandates.”

Maloney’s tweet comes as Hochul is expected to let New York’s indoor mask mandate lapse tomorrow, as the state reports a sharp decrease in coronavirus cases.

Updated

The Guardian’s Peter Walker and Ian Sample report on the UK’s plans to relax coronavirus restrictions:

Boris Johnson plans to abolish the last Covid restrictions in England, including the requirement for people with the virus to self-isolate, in less than two weeks, a month earlier than initially proposed, he has announced.

In an opening statement to prime minister’s questions, Johnson said he hoped to do this as soon as the Commons returned from its upcoming recess, on 21 February.

“I can tell the house today that it is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid,” he said.

“Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions, including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive, a full month early.”

The plans to end all restrictions were announced by Johnson last month, when he unveiled the scrapping of so-called plan B measures such as mask use.

Read the Guardian’s full report:

While some Democratic governors push for easing coronavirus restrictions as number of coronavirus cases decreases, the Biden administration seems a bit more hesitant to do so.

Joe Biden met with a bipartisan group of governors at the White House last week, and one Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, said the president was pushed on the need to return to some sense of normal in the US.

“There’s a number of areas that we have full agreement on, and that is one: we need to move away from the pandemic,” Hutchinson said, per CNN. “And we asked the president to help give us clear guidelines on how we can return to a greater state of normality.”

But Biden sounded a more cautious note, telling the governors, “I think it’s all about making sure we have the same standards we’re applying across the board.”

It’s important to note that, while coronavirus cases have decreased in the past few weeks, the number of Americans dying from the virus remains alarmingly high.

As of Monday, the seven-day average of daily coronavirus deaths in the US was 2,404, according to the data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York governor expected to let indoor mask mandate lapse

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, is expected to let her state’s indoor mask mandate lapse tomorrow, joining several other Democrat-led states that are easing restrictions as coronavirus cases decrease.

Earlier this week, the governors of Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon announced plans to lift mask requirements in schools, and JB Pritzker of Illinois is also expected to outline his offramp strategy for mask mandates later today.

“We are not going to manage Covid to zero,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Monday. “We have to learn how to live with Covid as we move from a pandemic to an endemic phase of this virus.”

The easing of restrictions comes as many states, particularly those that were hit early by the surge in cases causes by the Omicron variant, report lower numbers of infections.

According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US is now averaging about 250,000 new cases a day. And while that is still high, it is a fraction compared to the 800,000 new cases a day that the country was seeing in mid-January.

Those declining numbers have given some governors, even those who may have been previously hesitant to relax restrictions, the confidence to start doing so.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

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