Republicans ignore latest Biden mask plea

·2-min read

US President Joe Biden's pleas for states to stick with mask mandates to slow the spread of coronavirus are being largely ignored as several Republican governors stay on track to drop the requirement.

Biden and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say this is no time to relax safety measures.

In a call with governors on Tuesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky buttressed that message by citing "concerning" national trends.

The seven-day average of 61,000 new COVID-19 cases per day is up 13 per cent and the seven-day average of deaths is up 6 per cent.

But Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison announced on Tuesday he would drop his mask mandate immediately, a day earlier than previously announced as reopening his state was "really a necessity".

In Arkansas, the number of new reported cases was 69 on Sunday, according to the CDC, continuing a downward trend.

"Every state is different," said Hutchison, a Republican.

On the other end of the spectrum, Michigan has seen a steep rise in cases.

That prompted Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to ask whether the White House has considered surging additional vaccines to states with rapidly increasing infection rates.

Jeffrey Zeints, the White House coronavirus response co-ordinator, replied officials were "thinking through how to address hot spots".

Staying the course is a "tough message" to communicate, White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged.

"It's important for people to hear that we're still in a war with this virus, and people still need to be vigilant in order to return to normal," Psaki told reporters.

As more vaccines are deployed - with the nation on track to deliver 200 million doses by Wednesday - whether to enforce the wearing of masks has become the latest partisan focal point in the battle against the virus.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey intends her state's mandate to end on April 9, though she is urging people to wear masks out of personal responsibility.

"We have made progress and are moving towards personal responsibility and common sense, not endless government mandates," said Gina Maiola, Ivey's spokeswoman.

The Republican-controlled Arizona Senate voted Monday to rescind its mandatory mask policy and the House speaker made the same move on his own authority.

That action comes on the heels of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey's move to lift remaining restrictions.

The Republican's executive order allows businesses to enforce mask mandates and distancing requirements if they want, but cities, towns and counties must lift theirs.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, said he would appeal to his GOP counterpart in neighboring Indiana, Eric Holcomb, to reconsider dropping the state's mandate.

Oregon has one of the country's strictest mask requirements. Even high school athletes must wear them while running races.