Multiple states are experiencing a spike in Covid-19 cases amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, sparking controversy over whether people should be required to wear masks in public to help slow the spread of the virus.
States like Florida, Georgia and Texas, which do not have statewide mask mandates, hit record highs in their average number of daily new cases on Thursday. Nevada also reported a new high a day ahead of implementing a mask requirement on Friday. California, which issued a mask mandate on June 18, has also seen record jumps in new cases in recent days.
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention recommends wearing masks in public in order to reduce the risk of transmitting Covid-19, but doing so turned into a political issue after President Donald Trump said some Americans might wear masks to "signal disapproval of him."
Trump rarely wears a face mask in public, and did not don one during his recent rally in Tulsa, Okla. where several staffers working on the event tested positive. Oklahoma reported a record spike in coronavirus cases on Wednesday, but state officials said it was too early to attribute the jump to the campaign rally.
Some state leaders have opposed requiring masks in public. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said counties in his state risk forfeiting their eligibility for funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act if they require masks. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine removed a requirement on wearing masks in stores just one day after introducing it, saying that it was "offensive'" to some residents.
In the absence of a federal order, twelve states, including New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Mexico, have mandated that face coverings be worn in public. Washington, North Carolina and Nevada were the latest states to introduce requirements that kicked in on Friday.
Other states have stopped just short of requiring masks in all public places, but have made face coverings mandatory in a range of settings that include retailers, grocery stores and public transportation. Virginia and Michigan have even required masks to be worn in indoor public spaces statewide.
In some states that do not have mask requirements, local governments have introduced their own measures regarding face coverings. In New Orleans, residents must use masks when performing public activities, while Memphis, Tenn. passed a city ordinance requiring people to wear masks in public. Mandates have appeared on the county level too in places like Boulder County, Colorado and Maricopa County, Arizona.
Mask requirements on both state and local levels may become more common as parts of the country continue to see surges in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Multiple states, including Florida, Arizona and North Carolina, have paused reopening measures in light of rising cases. Texas was forced to roll back reopening plans on Friday by re-introducing restrictions on bars, restaurants and other businesses.
The stock market dropped on the Texas news in midday trading.