With coronavirus cases on the rise, one public safety measure encouraged by doctors and scientists around the world to help reduce the risk of infection is persistent for some Americans: wearing face masks.
In fact, as of Friday, 12 U.S. states hadn’t issued mandates requiring the wearing of masks, and infection rates were high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the US quickly reached 300,000 people, based on data from the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.
Many of those who speak out against wearing masks say the COVID-19 risks are exaggerated or that mask mandates violate rights, are unenforceable, or cause polarization. President Trump made fun of the use of masks even though he sometimes wore them.
In some communities those who speak out against mask mandates have protested.
In a recent case, anti-mask protesters gathered during a virtual meeting outside the Idaho Health Department and board members’ homes to vote on a local mask ordinance. A visibly shaken Diana Lachiondo, a commissioner from Ada County, left the meeting early because she said she was worried about her 12-year-old son who was home alone. The board members voted to postpone the meeting to a later date.
A study by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published on Oct. 23 showed that masks could save more than half a million lives by the end of February if Americans would wear them every time they leave their homes.
U.S. health officials have stressed in the past few days that COVID-19 vaccine distribution will take months and that safety measures remain vital. President-elect Joe Biden this week urged everyone to wear masks for the first 100 days of his presidency, which begins Jan. 20.
“We need your help. Just wear a mask for 100 days,” Biden said on a Twitter video. “It’s the easiest thing you can do to reduce COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”
Here is some of the latest information on mask requirements in the United States
Which states do not have mask mandates and what are some of their reasons?
Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee do not have mask mandates.
Some governors have encouraged people to voluntarily wear masks but refused to issue legal mandates, despite some residents, local politicians, and health and medical organizations calling for such action. Some governors have said that local governments could better enforce the rules.
“I don’t think mask mandates are appropriate,” Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts told reporters at a news conference on November 17th. However, he has asked Nebraskans to wear masks when visiting the grocery store or in crowded or enclosed areas.
Many of the largest cities in Nebraska have mandated masks that usually allow exceptions for children and people with disabilities or medical conditions that prevent them from wearing one. Some areas, such as B. Douglas County, however, can only legally enforce such rules if they are approved by the state. County commissioners recently urged the governor to reconsider his stance on mask mandates.
“It’s common sense. Just wearing a mask makes you safer and respects the airspace of the people you see, ”said Douglas Boy Commissioner and former Omaha Mayor Mike Boyle in an interview. “The governor is really following the Trump line. It’s a shame. ”
In South Dakota, Republican Governor Kristi Noem has spoken out against mask mandates and refused to close shops or churches.
“Since the pandemic began, Governor Noem has provided their people with the latest science, facts and data and then trusted them to make the best decisions for themselves, their families and, in turn, their communities.” Ian Fury, the governor’s communications director, said in a statement emailed. “And when it comes to masking mandates, the data is clear. Even in states that have introduced mask mandates, cases are increasing dramatically. ”
Red Dawn Foster, Senator from South Dakota, and Rep. Peri Pourier, both Democrats, recently sent the governor a letter asking them to look beyond the party lines and make a mask request.
“This is not a political roulette game with our communities or our families. It is a public health issue that transcends political parties and hits the very core of our humanity, ”they wrote in a letter dated November 19.
The South Dakota State Medical Assn., Made up of doctors, residents and medical students, last week urged the governor to act more aggressively to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The group cited a report by the White House Coronavirus Task Force recommending that the state ensure that masks are worn in public at all times and reduce capacity in public and private indoor spaces.
“We urge the public to follow these precautions to prevent infection and slow hospital stays, to avoid overloading our health systems, and to avoid a situation where there are insufficient hospital beds, doctors, nurses and other health professionals are “, says Dr. Benjamin C. Aaker. SDSMA President said in a statement. “A vaccine is almost here, but for now it’s important to follow these recommendations.”
Do states without mask mandates show a higher infection rate than the national average?
Yes. All 12 states have a higher infection rate than the national average of 4,730 cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC.
South Dakota has the largest portion of the 12 cases at 10,057 cases per 100,000 population.
Here are the infection rates for the 11 other states without mask mandates:
Nebraska: 7,556 cases per 100,000 people Idaho: 6,728 Tennessee: 6,248 Mississippi: 5,869 Oklahoma: 5,793 Missouri: 5,463 Arizona: 5,404 Alaska: 5,148 Florida: 5,054 Georgia: 4,995 South Carolina: 4,754
Are states with mask mandates doing much better?
Of the 38 states with mask mandates, 18 have higher rates than the national average.
According to a study published in the CDC’s weekly report on morbidity and mortality in October, researchers found that “a combination of voluntary and enforceable measures is more effective than either measure”.
“Mitigation measures imposed by public order can effectively increase social distancing, and wearing masks has prevented the transmission of SARS-CoV-2,” the study said.
North Dakota has 11,474 cases per 100,000 people, most of all 50 states. Governor Doug Burgum resisted enforcing a mandate for months until he said doctors and nurses needed help as the number of cases continued to rise. “Our situation has changed and we have to change with it,” he said in a press release.
Vermont decided to fulfill its mask order in August, citing an increase in coronavirus infections.
“Instead of waiting like other states, we must act now to protect our profits, which have allowed us to reopen much of our economy,” said Governor Phil Scott in a press release. Green Mountain State has 864 cases per 100,000 people, the fewest in the country.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told CNN in October that enforcing a nationwide mandate would be difficult, but essential to slow the rate of infection.
“They sound very simple, but we don’t do it consistently and that’s one of the reasons we see these waves,” he said.
What does Biden mean when he says he will work with governors and mayors to implement a mask mandate? What if they refuse to cooperate?
Biden said on Twitter that he would sign an executive order to call for masks everywhere. Wearing a mask is not a political statement, but a patriotic act.
“It starts with my first day signing an order to require masks wherever I can under the law, such as federal buildings, interstate travel, on airplanes, trains and buses,” he said. “I will work with governors and mayors to do the same in their states and cities. We will need masks wherever possible, but this goes beyond government action. As the new president, I will speak directly to the American people and say, we need your help. “