CORONAVIRUS

Do all states have to follow the mask mandate?

President Biden has opted to increase covid-19 restrictions for non-vaccinated federal workers but some states have outlawed businesses imposing similar rules.

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Do all states have to follow the mask mandate?
Oliver Contreras / POOL EFE

On Thursday President Biden made his toughest appeal yet to encourage non-vaccinated American to get the life-saving shot while giving remarks at the White House. With growing concern about the Delta variant of covid-19 he announced the introduction of new rules that will require all federal employees to get vaccinated or face strict testing procedures.

The White House has confirmed that all non-vaccinated federal employees "will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.”

Biden said that those refusing to get vaccinated “present a problem to yourself, to your family and to those with whom you work,” offering the starkest condemnation yet of the unvaccinated. The new rules only apply to employees of the federal government and states can decide whether to introduce something similar.

Nevada and Louisiana introduce their own mask mandates

With the decision completely in their own hands, two states have already decided to impose some masking rules for residents to curb the re-emergence of covid-19. Nevada imposed a mask mandate for certain counties across the state with high transmission rates. From 30 July the Nevada Health Response team will update the list on a weekly basis with counties having to remain out of the “high” or “substantial” transmission category for a full two weeks before the mandate is removed.

In Louisiana the new rules are more universal with all residents required to wear masks in public indoor settings regardless of their vaccination status. This includes K-12 schoolchildren and college students.

Dr Joseph Kanter, the state’s health officer, released a statement saying: “The data in Louisiana clearly point to the severity of our situation, and the urgency to act now.”

Some states have opted to go the other way with mask mandates and have passed legislation specifically banning private businesses and schools from imposing their own restrictions. A number of Republican-led state have banned mask mandates, leading to criticism from Biden who said the directives “forbid people from doing the right thing.”

In his comments on Tuesday Biden was particularly scathing on the decisions of Florida and Texas to prevent mask mandates, due to the fact that the two states currently account for a third of all new cases of covid-19 in the United States.

Biden said of their decisions: “I say to these governors, please help. If you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.”