A group of Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers have spent the week raising hell at the prospect of COVID mask mandates and lockdowns—despite the fact there's no evidence any new mass restrictions will be implemented.
Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina posted a video on social media Thursday announcing that he would block any new restrictions despite rising cases, describing the measures as “foolish.”
“I can assure the people of South Carolina we will not have mask mandates. We will not close schools, and we will not lock down,” he said.
The uproar comes as COVID cases have been steadily increasing across the United States. Hospitalizations have more than doubled over the last three months, according to CDC data.
In light of the uptick in cases, there have been two isolated incidents of schools introducing temporary mask mandates, all of which have drawn Republican ire in the last two weeks.
In Alabama, Kinterbish Junior High School posted on Facebook that “due to the slow raise of Covid cases” students, employees, and visitors were asked to wear masks from Aug. 22. (Pictures posted since that announcement show students and staff not wearing masks.)
After a COVID outbreak in a third grade class at Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Maryland, the school implemented a ten-day mask mandate for affected classes starting Sept. 5.
The posts quickly spread online and the backlash was swift.
“They want to muzzle your children,” presidential candidate Gov. Ron De Santis wrote on X, sharing an article about the Maryland school, “When I’m President, there will be a reckoning for the harm they’ve done to kids in pursuit of a political agenda.”
The school was forced to increase security and keep recess indoors due to the online hysteria, the Washington Post reported.
Another presidential hopeful, Nikki Haley, speaking ahead of her appearance at a Moms For Liberty event in New Hampshire, told the Washington Examiner that “forced lockdowns wreaked havoc on our families, our business, and Americans’ physical and mental health."
“We won’t allow government overreach to hurt America again,” Haley continued.
In the Senate, a group of Republican legislators, led by U.S. Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH) introduced the “Freedom To Breathe Act,” on Tuesday, legislation aimed at preventing the federal government or commercial airlines from introducing mask requirements. The bill is co-sponsored by Mike Braun (R-IN) and Josh Hawley (R-MO)
“Any floor objection to Senator Vance’s unanimous consent request would amount to a clear admission that Democrats intend to reimpose mask mandates in the near term,” Vance’s office said in a statement.
Other Republicans who have spoken out publicly in recent days about the hypothetical return of mask mandates, include Ted Cruz (R-TX), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).
The effort comes as many Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, are spreading rumors that Democrats intend to bring back COVID restrictions and mandate mail-in ballots in an effort to steal the 2024 election.
“The left-wing lunatics are trying very hard to bring back COVID lockdowns and mandates with their sudden fear-mongering about the new variants that are coming,” Trump said in a video posted to social media on Aug. 30, “They want to restart the COVID hysteria so they can justify more lockdowns, more censorship, more illegal drop boxes, more mail-in ballots.”