Reason Roundup

California Reinstates Mask Mandate as Omicron Panic Devours Team Blue

Plus: Trump's family members and cable news supporters pleaded with him to stop the January 6 riot, the D.C. metro needs a reckoning, and more...


Despite no new public information that would suggest there is anything novel to fear from the omicron variant of COVID-19—which seems to be producing mild cases in vaccinated individuals—many municipalities are regressing into full-blown panic and reimposing mitigation measures. Case in point: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom reinstated California's mask mandate, beginning December 15 and lasting until January 15.

Many Californians had already been living under some kind of mask mandate: The city of Los Angeles never lifted its requirement.

Officials were quick to assert that the mandate is necessary because cases have surged 47 percent since Thanksgiving. That sounds like a lot, but we're actually talking about an increase from 9 cases per 100,000 people to 14 cases per 100,000 people. Thus far, the new strain appears just as infectious as the delta variant, but is causing less severe disease among those who contract it.

It "looks less severe in really early data," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky admitted to ABC News. "We're certainly following and very interested in disease severity."

California is hardly the only Democratic-controlled place to implement new restrictions due to omicron panic. Philadelphia announced a new vaccine mandate for indoor restaurants. Even kids will have to follow it: The city is giving them until February to get their shots.

Throughout the pandemic, I've looked to elite college campuses—where the student population is typically between 90 and 99 percent vaccinated, and at low risk of negative COVID-19 health outcomes—for any evidence that progressive officials will ease up on their love of pandemic restrictions. Over and over again, we've seen that the very people who could most afford to return to normal are being forced to behave the most cautiously. And so it is with omicron: DePaul University in Chicago announced yesterday they would move classes online for the month of January. Craig Klugman, a medical anthropologist and member of DePaul's COVID advisory team, told higher ed watchdog news site The College Fix that he was not in the room where the decision was made.

Middlebury College in Vermont, which is 99 percent vaccinated, is immediately moving to remote instruction following a 50 person outbreak on campus,* and told students to leave campus immediately if possible. They will take all of their final exams online, and all athletic games and social events are canceled. Students who are stuck on campus may not eat in the cafeteria: All meals will be grab-and-go. Mask wearing is required and will be militantly enforced.

The select committee investigating the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol has voted to hold Mark Meadows, chief of staff to former President Donald Trump, in contempt of Congress for failing to appear and answer questions about his role in the events of that infamous day. According to CNBC:

Meadows, who refused to sit for a deposition to answer questions about the then-president's actions on Jan. 6, is the third Trump ally to face the threat of possible criminal charges stemming from the probe of the deadly attack.

The bipartisan, nine-member panel voted unanimously in support of a report that includes a resolution recommending that the House find Meadows in contempt and refer him to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

The 51-page contempt report lays out Meadows' refusal to fully comply with the subpoena, which required him to produce a slew of records to the committee and sit for a deposition with the investigators.

That report also includes fascinating details about efforts made by Trump's family members, as well as Fox News hosts, to convince the president to take stronger action to stop the riot. According to The Bulwark:

Indeed, according to the records, multiple Fox News hosts knew the President needed to act immediately. They texted Meadows that:

"Hey Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home…this is hurting all of us…he is destroying his legacy," Laura Ingraham wrote.

"Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished," Brian Kilmeade wrote.

"Can he make a statement?…Ask people to leave the Capitol," Sean Hannity urged.

As the violence continued, one of the president's sons texted Meadows:

"He's got to condemn this [shit] ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough," Donald Trump, Jr. texted.

Meadows responded: "I'm pushing it hard. I agree."

Still, President Trump did not immediately act. Donald Trump, Jr. texted again and again, urging action by the president: "We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand."

"Mr. Meadows has shown his willingness to talk about issues related to the select committee's investigation across a variety of media platforms—anywhere, it seems, except to the select committee," the panel wrote in a recent report.


The D.C. Metro is currently functioning at greatly reduced capacity due to various issues with the train cars. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D–Va.) plans to call Metro leaders to testify before Congress about hiding details of faulty cards for years. According to NBC:

"Metro has to account for the fact that they essentially hid the fact that they had a safety problem with the series 7000 cars for four years. For four years they didn't tell anybody," he said via video call.

"That for me – I'm a Catholic — that's in the category of a mortal sin," Connolly added.

Two major questions that have swirled since a train derailed on the Blue Line near Arlington Cemetery on Oct. 12 are, Who knew about the wheel problems? Why didn't they tell anyone?

Metro said they appreciate Connolly's oversight and will continue to provide information on the issues.

Transparency is essential, Connolly said.

"If we are going to win back confidence such that riders return, they've got to have confidence that you're not hiding safety issues from them," he said.

Metro's sidelined 7000 series railcars make up about 60% of Metro's fleet. Without them, riders continue to face long delays.

(No kidding.)


  • Lia Thomas, a trans woman and college swim team star at the University of Pennsylvania, is smashing records left and right, prompting some charges of unfairness.
  • A corrections officer was killed by the Kentucky tornadoes while overseeing inmates working in a candle factory.
  • No one responsible for the Afghanistan drone strike that wrongly killed innocent civilians is expected to be punished.
  • Kim Kardashian West passed the "baby bar" exam on her fourth attempt.
  • Comedian Sarah Silverman defended her tweet criticizing MSNBC host Joy Reid over misleading commentary:

UPDATE: Middlebury's decision was in response to an outbreak on campus. This detail has been added.