| March 15, 2022 07:00 AM
Despite growing opposition — and as most cities, states, and organizations move away from COVID-19 restrictions — some officials are keeping mask and vaccine mandates in place.
The seemingly arbitrary nature of New York City’s remaining rules came into focus Sunday when Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who is unvaccinated, attended a game at Barclays Center to watch his teammates play.
A vaccine requirement for arena workers prevented Irving from joining his teammates on the court, just several feet away from him, even though the city lifted its vaccine requirement for fans.
It’s just one of several targeted mandates still in effect despite the end of most restrictions, often creating confusion and sparking anger.
In Chicago, for example, Mayor Lori Lightfoot last month lifted indoor mask mandates and proof-of-vaccination requirements that forced customers at many businesses to show their vaccine card to enter.
But Chicago left in place its vaccine mandate for city workers, leaving police officers, firefighters, and other workers vulnerable to termination or suspension if they remained unvaccinated heading into this week.
A dozen Chicago aldermen wrote a letter to Lightfoot on Friday and pressed her to reconsider the mandate, as roughly 12% of the city’s workforce remained unvaccinated before the March 13 deadline for compliance.
Roughly a quarter of Chicago’s police officers remained unvaccinated as of Friday, raising concerns about whether the mandate would result in a significant loss of officers as the city’s crime rates skyrocket.
Lightfoot said Friday that city employees who do not comply with the mandate will be suspended without pay.
In Seattle, critics began demanding an end to the King County employee vaccine mandate late last month.
Reagan Dunn, a Seattle councilman, is among the opponents of the continuation of the mandate and cited the shortage of King County sheriff’s deputies as a primary reason as to why the city’s mandate should be lifted.
“Forceful vaccine mandates that push deputies out of King County’s workforce ultimately cause more harm than good,” Dunn wrote in a Feb. 22 letter to the county executive.
School mask mandates have ended in most places. In liberal California, one of the last places to require students to wear masks in the classroom, the school mask mandate ended Monday.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the country, announced that it would keep its mask mandate in place for the time being as district officials work to strike an agreement with teachers unions over how to walk back the mandate.
Hawaii is the only state that still requires children to wear masks in the classroom, although the state earlier this month allowed students and staff to remove their masks if they are outside during school hours.
Most cities, including New York City and Washington, D.C., have lifted their proof-of-vaccination requirements for indoor businesses in recent weeks.
Not all cities have moved away from them, however. New Orleans continues to require that patrons show their vaccine card or proof of a negative test to enter restaurants, gyms, and other indoor venues.
Private organizations have also imposed vaccine or mask mandates that go beyond what local requirements dictate despite most companies and groups easing their individual rules.
The leaders of Broadway, for example, have opted to keep mask and vaccine mandates in place through at least April as much of the rest of New York City moves toward more relaxed policies.