In 6 of the States With Spiking Coronavirus Cases, Masks Are Optional

As coronavirus cases across the country are spiking in recent days, many states and localities have requirements in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

However, in six states in particular where cases are quickly on the rise – Texas, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama – wearing masks has not been made a requirement by their respective governors.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has stated that he does not think government should force people to wear a face mask against their will, though he does recommend their use are a measure to slow the spread of the contagious virus. There have been over 2,000 new cases in the state over the last few days.

Nine mayors across Texas, including those from Houston and Dallas, wrote a letter to the governor this week urging him to allow local governments to enforce rule requiring face coverings.

"This one step could prove to be the most effective way to prevent the transmission of this disease...Yet many people in many of our cities are still refusing to wear these face coverings even though these coverings are scientifically proven to help prevent the disease from spreading," the letter stated.

Florida reported 3,027 new cases Thursday, a new state record during the pandemic. Governor Ron DeSantis has yet to make face coverings a requirement and said at a press briefing Tuesday that the state will not shut down.

Arizona saw 3,245 new confirmed cases Friday – a record high that surpassed a previous mark set the day before. While Governor Doug Ducey has yet to institute a state-wide requirement for masks, he did implement new policies to allow local officials the authority to require face coverings.

"Looking at the last two weeks of data, there is a trend. And the trend is headed in the wrong direction and the actions we're going to take are intended to change that direction and reverse this trend," Ducey said.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper stated in a press conference Thursday that his state is considering implementing a face mask requirement. The state reported nearly 3,000 new cases over the past two days. While he wants residents to wear masks voluntarily, officials are "looking at additional rules to make this mandatory."

"Regardless of whether it's a law or store requirement, wearing a face covering when you're around others slows the spread of the virus...This is a low-cost, low-tech way to protect ourselves and our communities. It's an important way to slow the spread of the virus without hurting the economy," Cooper said.

In South Carolina, where the state reported a record 987 new cases Thursday, Governor Henry McMaster has strongly required residents to wear face masks, though he has not implemented any policies to enforce this.

Linda Bell, a top health official in South Carolina, urged residents to follow state recommendations in a press conference Thursday, citing that those who don't are "extending the duration" of the pandemic.

"Every one of us has a role to play in stopping COVID-19. This virus does not spread on its own. It's spread around our state by infected people who carry it wherever they go — their work, the supermarket, the post office, a friend's house. By not following public health precautions, many are putting all at risk," Bell stated.

Governor Kay Ivey in Alabama has also held off on forcing the public to wear face masks in public, even while the state reported over 1,600 new confirmed cases over the past two days. Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed issued a city-wide order for face masks Wednesday that will go into effect Friday at 5 p.m., after a city council vote mandating the use of masks ended in a tie.

"As you know we've been encouraging our community to wear masks. Most of our community has done just that. However, not enough members of the community have done those things and so we start to go from an encouragement to an enforcement phase," Reed said.

A spokesperson for Ivey told Newsweek in an email that the governor encourages residents to wear face masks.

"Governor Ivey respects the individual choice of citizens to wear a mask or not, just as she respects that of businesses or local entities to require it," the spokesperson said.

Newsweek reached out to the offices of the five other governors for comment.

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A man is seen at the beach wearing a facemask in Miami Beach, Florida on June 16, 2020. Multiple states where coronavirus cases are spiking, including Florida, have yet to implement face mask requirements. Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty