Coronavirus

In what states is mask-wearing required and under what conditions?

While mask mandates have been lifted or were never implemented in over half of US states, many leaders in those states still “encourage” mask use in public.

In what states is mask-wearing required and under what conditions?
JOEL SAGET AFP

Early in the pandemic, masks were politized in the United States. The implications of that politicization have cost lives and are still being felt more than a year later.

In recent weeks, many Republican-led states have opted to lift mask mandates. Eleven governors from Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, used their executive power to lift the restriction.

In Kansas, the legislature repealed the mask mandate only hours after the Democratic Governor Laura Kelly had extended it through executive action.Utah’s legislature also used its power to get rid of their mask mandate, and in Wisconsin, the order was struck down in the courts.

Regardless, in states where state-wide mandates are and are not in place, the landscape can be confusing. Some states who do not have state-wide mandates still could have local orders or business-specific rules. At the same time, states who have implemented mandates may have different requirements depending on age or vaccination status.

Which states do not have a state-wide mask mandate?

Of all fifty states and the District of Colombia, twenty-four statesdo not currently have state-wide mask mandates in place.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Many of these states do still encourage mask-wearing in public when surrounded by people outside of your household.

In some states, like Indiana there are indications that the lifting of the mask mandate may have contributed to an increase in cases. Before 6 April, Indiana had a state mandate for mask-wearing, which was then converted to a “mask advisory.” From 18 March to 6 April, the average number of new cases reported in Indiana was 890. From 12 April to 2 May, that average increased to more than 1100 new cases per day.

Limiting the power of local governments

Arizona’s governor Doug Ducey used his executive authority to lift the state’s mask mandate on 25 March 2021. Also, he barred cities and counties from enforcing their mandates had they chosen to implement. Arizona’s overall average number of new cases did not increase after the order was lifted, but the state added over 1,000 new cases for the first time since 12 March on 1 May. A similar law was passed in Arkansas, and beginning this summer, local governments will not have the power to enforce mask mandates covered under their jurisdiction.

Vaccine Passports -- Who is in favor and who is opposed?

Some states are thinking about developing vaccine passports better to control the flows of vaccinated versus unvaccinated people. Many Republican leaders have voiced their opposition to the idea, and Florida’s state legislature passed a law this week that would outlaw their use in the state.

Only one state has implemented the use of a covid-19 passport, New York. The state government unveiled its Excelsior Pass last month. Once New Yorkers are vaccinated, they can participate in a voluntary program called the Excelsior Pass.

The Excelsior Pass “supports a safe reopening of New York by providing a free, fast and secure way to present digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results.” The pass is a mobile application available for free for both Apple and Android. The pass aims to help businesses reopen, and if in the case that testing or vaccination requirements exist, individuals have an easy way to show that they comply. Passholders should be advised that they will still need to “follow State and CDC guidance regarding social distancing, face coverings, and hand hygiene.

Where are masks required?

In the following states, the governments have implemented a state-wide mandate. The mandates differ based on age and vaccination status.

California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia