Health and Science

More than half of U.S. states have statewide mask mandates

Key Points
  • As of Monday, more than half of U.S. states have statewide mask mandates in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Masks are now required across 28 states, as well as in businesses, cities and counties without statewide orders.
  • Masks have become politicized, as they have taken a central place in the discussions surrounding civil liberties during economic shutdowns to preserve public health.
  • Both the CDC and WHO recommend face coverings, in addition to other measures such as social distancing, to prevent spreading Covid-19. 

With Arkansas' statewide mask mandate from Gov. Asa Hutchinson taking effect Monday, more than half of the United States now has statewide mask mandates to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, an analysis of statewide policies from CNBC shows.

Twenty-eight states have statewide orders requiring face coverings in public. Masks are recommended by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization to prevent spreading Covid-19.

The governors of states including Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado and Montana all announced statewide mandates last week. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in announcing the mandate that there was evidence showing a mandate prompted more people to wear a face covering, despite being hard to enforce.

"This is a responsible, bipartisan, common sense step to take," Polis said during a news conference at the Boettcher Mansion in Jefferson County, Colorado, on Thursday. "We have a choice in Colorado: either more mask wearing and more attention to social distancing or more damage to our economy and loss of life."

Though mandates across states have similar requirements, they vary on exemptions. In Texas, the requirement is waived for religious services, working out or voting. Kids under the age of 10 and people with a medical condition that prevents wearing a face covering are also exempt from the order.

Statewide mandates usually take the place of any local ordinances or business-specific requirements for face coverings. Masks are also required at a growing number of stores, including Walmart and Kroger.

In addition to statewide mandates, some states and cities have placed certain areas under mask orders. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, while not announcing a statewide mandate, has put specific counties under a mandate. Other places, such as Oklahoma City, have imposed mandates on themselves without statewide requirements.

In Georgia, where there is no statewide mandate, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a mask order for the city. Bottoms' action prompted Gov. Brian Kemp to file a lawsuit against her and members of the Atlanta city council over the requirement.

Masks have become politicized, multiple public officials from both parties have said since the Covid-19 outbreak began in March, as what was once seen as a public health precaution has become a symbol of civil liberties. In May, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum called the diverging opinions about masks in the pandemic a "senseless dividing line."

"I would really love to see in North Dakota that we could just skip this thing that other parts of the nation are going through where they're trading a divide — either it's ideological or political or something — around masks versus no mask," Burgum said in May. "This is a — I would say — senseless dividing line, and I would ask people to try to dial up your empathy and your understanding."

Face coverings are recommended by the CDC and WHO, in addition to other measures such as social distancing, and the CDC has seen growing acceptance of face-covering recommendations. An internet survey from the CDC found approximately three-fourths of Americans saying they adopted mask recommendations.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said last week that the U.S. could get the pandemic under control in one to two months if everyone wore a mask.

"The time is now," Redfield said during an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association's Dr. Howard Bauchner. "I think if we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control."

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