While health officials agree face masks help prevent the spread of Covid-19, state and local governments have varied widely on implementation of mask rules. Now, President Joe Biden wants to change that.
Biden’s office has released plans that his administration intends to implement in the beginning of his term, and one is a national mask mandate “by working with governors and mayors.”
Most states already have some type of mask mandate, but some have no statewide rule — either leaving it as a recommendation or giving the authority to local officials.
Here are the states with no statewide mask requirement.
Alaska does not require the use of masks, limit group size or business operations. All the state does is encourage Alaskans to do their part to limit the spread of Covid-19, recommending that residents practice social distancing and wear a mask, without any mandate.
The mayor of Anchorage, though, has signed an order requiring people to wear face coverings in public.
Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, allows individual counties to mandate a mask, but does not have a statewide initiative. Scottsdale was the first to make masks mandatory starting June 19. Other major municipalities with requirements include Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff.
There is no statewide mask requirement, yet some local municipalities have their own mandates.
Statewide, masks are required for some essential employees, including restaurants and personal care services employees.
Meanwhile, several counties and cities have mask mandates.
The state does not have a statewide requirement, but several local municipalities do, including Boise.
The state implemented a mask mandate in November, but in February Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted the requirement.
“We know what we need to do and it doesn’t require a government mandate to do it,” Reynolds said at the time. “Prior to November, Iowa didn’t have a mask requirement but most Iowans wore masks, and I am confident they will continue to do so.”
At the time, the governor said virus activity in Iowa was declining, noting that the statewide average positivity rate had fallen into single digits.
On September 4, Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, lifted the state face covering requirement.
Just over a month later and amid rising case numbers, Reeves signed an executive order requiring face coverings in counties with higher Covid-19 case numbers. The “Safe Recovery” executive order is in effect through December 11 and includes 22 of the state’s 82 counties.
The state does not have a statewide requirement, but several local municipalities do.
Montana had a mask mandate, but newly-elected Gov. Greg Gianforte let it expire in February, though he said local communities may continue to enforce their own mandates.
“Since we’re not out of the woods yet, I will continue to wear a mask, and I will encourage all Montanans to do the same,” he said at the time.
North Dakota didn’t have a mask mandate until November 2020, and let it expire in January.
“We put the mask mandate on when hospital capacity was approaching its peak and that’s when we applied it because that’s when we needed. Again as we are right now with less than 2% of our total hospital capacity being applied towards Covid patients,” said Gov. Doug Burgum in February, during an appearance on CNN Newsroom with Brianna Keilar.
“We’ve always encouraged masks from the very beginning … In our state it’s not about what government says, it’s about what people do and if people can socially distance, if people are in places where they need to wear a mask, we’ve seen people step up and they are doing what they need to do and that’s reflected the numbers.”
The city council in Oklahoma City voted in a special meeting in July to approve an emergency public safety ordinance requiring face coverings in indoor public places throughout Oklahoma City.
Several counties and cities, including Charleston and Columbia, have mask mandates.
Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, has taken a hands-off approach to Covid-19. In October, she wrote in an op-ed that the government should not mandate a mask requirement.
“As I’ve said before, if folks want to wear a mask, they should be free to do so,” she wrote. “Similarly, those who don’t want to wear a mask shouldn’t be shamed into wearing one.”
South Dakota is second — only to North Dakota — in the number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people.
Though there is no statewide mandate, Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed an executive order granting the mayors in 89 counties the authority to issue mask requirements.
Texas’s statewide mask mandate will be lifted on March 10. Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order on March 2 rescinded most of the previous executive orders dealing with Covid-19, including the mask mandate, he confirmed at a news conference.
“It is clear from the recoveries, from the vaccinations, from the reduced hospitalizations and from the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed,” Abbott said.
Also, effective March 10, all businesses of any kind are allowed to open 100%, the governor said.
Though it’s true that Covid-19 numbers have declined, experts have warned Americans shouldn’t let down their guards.
“I think it’s really critical for us to ramp up vaccinations as much as we can, and in the meantime, do our best to continue with masking, physical distancing — these other measures that we know to be really important in controlling the spread of infection,” said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen in February.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Texas’ mask mandate had already been rescinded. The mandate will no longer be in effect starting March 10.