State mask mandates split U.S. in half

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado is on one side of a COVID-19 policy issue that splits the country in half – statewide public mask mandates.

Half of U.S. states have them, including Colorado, while the other half with typically lower case rates has stopped enforcing public mask mandates – though there are a dozen shades of gray between one group and the other.

Gov. Jared Polis extended a statewide mask mandate until June 1 with a few tweaks. Coloradans no longer have to wear masks outside or if 80% of the people an indoor space are fully vaccinated. The order only applies to counties that have more than 35 cases per 100,000 residents.

Colorado joins Pacific Coast, East Coast and Great Lakes states in keeping statewide mask mandates, while Southern, Great Plains and Mountain West states have tended to either let theirs expire or repeal them.

Whether states have statewide mandates or not, the regulations are usually complex. Health departments might not enforce mask-wearing but most still strongly encourage it.

Many states that have lifted mandates still allow counties or cities to make their own local mandates. Most localities have produced their own mandates, so most of population still needs a mask in public. States such as Tennessee, Nebraska or Wisconsin, for instance, still have most of their metro areas under local mask mandates even in the absence of state rules.

Others, such as Florida and Texas, have repealed local mandates and forbidden local governments from making new ones.

Depending on the state, a state without mask mandate may still require masks in public schools, transit and government buildings. Others, such as Utah, still require masks for gatherings of 50 or more people.

Some states with mask mandates lift them outdoors or when certain amounts of people are fully vaccinated. This is the case in Colorado.

Governors from the states that lifted mask mandates often claim the state’s low COVID case numbers justify the move.

Broadly, this is the case nationwide.

The states without mask mandates tend to have lower 7-day cases per 100,000, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The states without mask mandates have a 7-day average 80 cases per 100,000. The states that kept them have an average 120 cases per 100,000.

The ten states that have the highest case rates are Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Illinois, West Virginia and Rhode Island. Except Florida, each of them has a statewide mask mandate.

States with low case rates are more likely not to have mask mandates.

The ten states with the lowest case rates are Wyoming, Louisiana, New Mexico, Kansas, Mississippi, Arkansas, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Alabama and California. Only California, Hawaii and New Mexico have state mask mandates.

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