States Consider Mask Mandates As Delta Variant Spreads

Woman and child wearing a protective face mask.
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News & Politics

When President Joe Biden took office in January this year, he promised to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and vaccinate the population in record time.

70 percent of American adults have had at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, but the number of cases and hospitalizations has nonetheless surged in recent weeks.

Now, the highly-contagious Delta variant of the novel coronavirus is forcing state and local governments across the nation to reconsider their public health policies.

Louisiana Breaks The Ice

On Monday, Louisiana became the first state to reinstate a statewide indoor mask mandate.

Louisiana's government -- led by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards -- made the decision amid an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases.

"This is bad. And it’s not this bad anywhere else in the country today," Edwards said at a press conference, per HuffPost.

"It has become extremely clear that our current recommendations on their own are not strong enough to deal with Louisiana’s fourth surge of COVID. In fact, nobody should be laboring under the misapprehension that this just another surge. This is the worst one we’ve had."

Data

Data shows that Louisiana has the most new coronavirus cases per capita in the country and that hospitals across the state are overwhelmed.

Notably, Louisiana has a very low vaccination rate: Only 43 percent of the state's residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and just 37 percent are fully vaccinated.

Though far more contagious than other variants, Delta is unlikely to evade antibodies from vaccines and infections. Furthermore, even if a vaccinated person is infected with it, they are likely to experience only mild symptoms.

Other States

The CDC officially reversed its mask guidance on July 27, advising everyone -- including fully vaccinated individuals -- to mask up in areas of substantial or high transmission risk.

Still, as US News noted, states and local governments are free to violate the CDC's recommendations and make their own decisions independent of the federal government.

In Connecticut, for instance, the mask mandate is limited to indoor areas and doesn't apply to fully vaccinated individuals. In California, the fully vaccinated are free to forego face coverings, with the exception of L.A. County, where everyone has to wear a mask indoors.

Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, American Samoa, Guam and the District of Columbia all have some sort of a mask mandate in place.

States Without Mask Mandates

A man is seen throwing away his protective face mask.
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Some states do not have a mask mandate in place, at least for now.

The list includes Alabama, Alaska Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Some of the states listed above require individuals to wear masks in certain settings and some cities have imposed their own mandates.