Wyoming to End Mask Mandate, Becoming 17th State Without Face Covering Rule

Wyoming is dropping its mask mandate, making it the 17th state that won't require its residents to wear face coverings in public.

In recent weeks, the governors of five U.S. states—Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana and North Dakota—have announced the end of statewide requirements making people wear masks that cover their nose and mouth to limit the spread of COVID.

Eleven states never required masks: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee.

While the governors of some states, including Alabama and Arkansas, have announced reopening roadmaps, they pushed back against stopping use immediately. Others, such as Connecticut, plan to loosen rules for businesses while still enforcing mask use.

Connecticut's Democrat Governor Ned Lamont said on March 4: "This is not Texas, this is not Mississippi, this is Connecticut. We are maintaining the masks.

"I think... we know that it works. We have much lower infections than those mask-less states, much lower, and we are going to keep going with what works."

Texas' Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said on March 2 the state's mask rule would end March 10, and all business would be opened at 100 percent capacity.

Mississippi's Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said on the same day his state's mandate would end from March 3, citing falling hospitalization rates and the vaccine rollout.

Those considerations were similar to the reasoning offered by Wyoming Republican Gov. Mark Gordon on Monday, who announced that the mask requirement would be scrapped and bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms could all reopen as normal on March 16.

A press release said the decision had been made based on "improving health metrics" in the state and approach to balance health with protecting businesses and jobs.

Despite the official end to the mask mandate, the governor said Wyoming residents will still be encouraged to wear masks when visiting indoor public spaces.

Face coverings will still be worn inside K-12 schools to "ensure that classroom learning and all student activities can continue to occur safely," the media release noted. It said people should also follow the "best practices adopted by any business they visit."

Gov. Gordon said in a statement: "I thank the people of Wyoming for their commitment to keeping one another safe throughout this pandemic.

"It is through their efforts that we have kept our schools and businesses operating and our economy moving forward. I ask all Wyoming citizens to continue to take personal responsibility for their actions and stay diligent as we look ahead to the warmer months and to the safe resumption of our traditional spring and summer activities."

The governor's office said up to 100,000 first doses of vaccines had been administered in the state, which represented around 19 percent of its residents. It said almost all of the counties are now starting to vaccinate restaurant, bar, gym, and theater staff.

Woman in Mask
A woman wearing a protective mask reads her phone in Midtown on Madison Avenue on December 11, 2020 in New York City. Wyoming is dropping its mask mandate, making it the 17th U.S. state that won’t require its residents to wear face coverings while out in public. John Lamparski/Getty Images