A new, highly infectious COVID-19 subvariant is growing in dominance across the country as healthcare providers relax mask mandates. In Arizona, Republicans have launched an investigation into the state’s COVID-19 response, contending that it was mismanaged.
High levels of the variant XBB.1.16, or “Arcturus,” have been found in Los Angeles County wastewater, the Los Angeles Times reports. Nationally, it comprised an estimated 10% of cases as of last Saturday, up from 6% the week prior.
Mask mandates in medical facilities have relaxed nationwide, but an outbreak at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in northern California caused the Santa Rosa facility to reinstitute its mask mandate at the end of April, according to Washington Post. Patient safety advocates are criticizing the federal government for relaxing the mandates, arguing that it has given up responsibility for pressuring hospitals to contain the spread of the virus.
The Republican inquiry into Arizona’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will not investigate its failures to implement public restrictions or mask mandates in order to contain the virus and prevent the highest adjusted death rate in the U.S. Instead, it will evaluate “protocols and overall public health guidance” in order to “identify any possible legal remedies against individuals or entities where appropriate. Or, as the Arizona Public Health Association (AzPHA) Executive Director Will Humble told AZCentral:
From the looks of this committee, they appear to think we did too much.
The federal public health emergency (PHE) is set to end on May 11.