In omicron outbreak, US governors lose appetite for mandates

JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press

Governors took sweeping actions during earlier surges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many closed schools and ordered businesses shut down. They issued mask mandates, vaccine requirements and even quarantines in some places for people who had traveled to out-of-state hot spots.

Not this time, even as the exponential spread of the super-contagious omicron variant shatters COVID-19 infection records. While governors are sending help to hospitals, they are displaying little appetite for widespread public orders or shutdowns.

Even Democratic governors who passed strict mandates early on are now relying more on persuasion than dictates. They largely are leaving it up to local officials to make the tough calls on decisions such as whether to limit capacity in restaurants and theaters or keep schools open.

South Carolina set a record for positive tests over the New Year’s weekend and COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 67% from the week before. But Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, urged everyone to carry on as if everything’s fine. “If you get real sick, there will be room in the hospitals,” he promised this week.

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