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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans in the U.S. Congress lashed out at health officials’ recommendations that even fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks in many places, including the Capitol, as the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads through the nation.

The attending physician for the Capitol followed a similar move by the White House after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new mask recommendations intended to stem the spread of the new variant.

“Mask and vaccine mandates: Bullying, Controlling, Unconstitutional, Threats to Liberty!” Republican Representative Jody Hice of Georgia tweeted on Wednesday morning.

Masks have become a political flashpoint during the pandemic, with Republicans arguing that public health officials’ advice that masks could slow the spread of COVID-19 infringed on individual liberties.

Some 57.6% of Americans have so far received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with the lowest rates across the heavily Republican Southeast. Four of the five states with the lowest vaccination rates in the United States have Republican governors: Mississippi, Idaho, Wyoming and Alaska, according to a Reuters COVID tracker. The governor of the fifth state, Louisiana, is a Democrat.

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