The claim: All 16 states without a mask mandate are governed by Republicans
The governors of several states have announced changes in coronavirus restrictions since the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccination plan spurred a mass vaccination effort, USA TODAY reported.
In a decision President Joe Biden called “a big mistake,” five states have rolled back mask mandates in the past month, according to USA TODAY. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the wearing of face masks to slow the spread of the virus that has killed over 530,000 Americans.
The governors who have made the decision to relax mask regulations are all Republicans, according to a viral Facebook claim.
The meme “16 States With No Mask Mandates” lists Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas with their corresponding governors, all with “R’s” next to their names.
“What do all of these have in common?” the meme states.
The Facebook post, dated March 4, is one of several similar posts of its kind on the social media website. USA TODAY reached out to the poster for comment.
Have the governors of these states placed politics above public health? The answer is more complicated than claimed.
Fact check:Michigan has no executive order for masks, but it does have a mask mandate
What happened to Texas’ mask mandate?
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s issuance of an executive order lifting a statewide mask mandate and reopening businesses at full capacity made headlines; USA TODAY reported on the order on March 4.
More than 43,000 Texans have died from COVID-19.
As of March 3, about 8% of the U.S. population had been vaccinated, according to USA TODAY.
In a statement released March 2, Abbott, a Republican, said Texas has the necessary medical advancements needed to protect its residents from the virus.
“We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed,” he said, according to the statement.
Abbott is not the only governor to relax or rescind mask requirements, nor is he the first. The Facebook posts accurately list the 15 other states’ governors that either lifted a mask mandate or never adopted one, according to USA TODAY, but the reasons vary.
Where else are mandates being lifted?
Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy never issued a statewide mask mandate, according to a March 10 press release, but he signed an executive order last November amid a COVID-19 case surge that required masks and social distancing for employees and visitors at state work sites, according to the office of the governor. Austin Quinn-Davidson, acting mayor of Anchorage, adopted a mask mandate in his city, according to a March 4 press release.
Arizona never underwent a statewide shutdown, according to a March 4 press release from the office of Gov. Doug Ducey. Ducey, a Republican, issued an executive order that extended mask protocols for businesses and allowed occupancy limitations to expire, according to the press release. The cities of Avondale, Peoria, Glendale, Scottsdale and Tempe have mask mandates in place for businesses, The Arizona Republic reported in February.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order last March declaring a state of emergency in the state of Florida, according to the office of the governor. The order referenced the wearing of face masks under the advisement of a health care provider or public health official, but DeSantis never issued a statewide mask mandate. Some local governments instituted regional masks requirements, according to local affiliate Fox 13 Tampa Bay.
Gov. Brian Kemp strongly encouraged all Georgia residents to “wear face coverings as practicable while outside their homes or place of residence, except when eating, drinking or exercising outdoors” in an Aug. 15 revision of an executive order issued last March. But Georgia does not have a statewide mask mandate. Kemp is a Republican.
Masks are required in long-term care facilities throughout the state, according to the office of Gov. Brad Little, but Idaho has not adopted a statewide mandate. Face coverings are “strongly recommended,” per a Feb. 2 press release. Little is a Republican.
Iowa does not have a statewide mask mandate in place.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted mask requirements and operational capacity limits for businesses in February. Select cities and counties throughout the state upheld their mask mandates, according to local NBC affiliate KWWL.
Mississippi Gov. Tates Reeves’ executive order to rescind masks requirements and permit businesses to resume full operations is effective from March 3-31, “unless otherwise modified, rescinded or extended,” the Clarion Ledger reported. Reeves is a Republican. Some cities in Mississippi retained mask mandates.
Gov. Michael L. Parson, a Republican, advocated for local government control over mask mandates instead of a statewide requirement as early as November 2020, local NBC affiliate KSDK reported. Various cities and counties have adopted requirements, the Springfield News-Leader reported March 6.
Montana’s statewide mask mandate expired on Feb. 10, according to a directive issued by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, per a Feb. 12 statement. An executive order signed on the same date offers a liability shield to businesses, nonprofits and other entities that “protect their workers, their customers, and their clients from the spread of COVID-19,” according to the statement.
Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts announced late last year that he doesn’t “think mask mandates are appropriate,” the Lincoln Journal Star reported on Dec. 23. Masks are required in salons and barbershops, at massage therapy, bowling alleys, pool halls, “body art establishments” and any other business where staff and patrons are within six feet of each other for at least 15 minutes, according to a Nov. 11 column released by the governor’s office. Local governments require masks for their citizens and patrons, the Associated Press reported last November.
Gov. Doug Burnum, a Republican, ordered a mask mandate throughout the state last November, and, despite encouraging residents to wear masks in public he allowed the order to expire in January, the Grand Forks Herald reported. Several of the state’s larger cities retained their mandates, the paper reported in February.
Oklahoma Republican Gov. J. Kevin Stitt has not ordered a statewide mask mandate and announced plans to roll back remaining COVID-19 restrictions, including masks requirements in state buildings, this month, The Oklahoman reported March 11. Tulsa still has an effective mask mandate; Oklahoma City’s will remain in place until April 30, according to the paper.
Republican Gov. Henry Dargan McMaster issued an executive order lifting mask requirements in state buildings and restaurants on March 5, according to the office of the governor. The order did not prohibit local governments from retaining their mask requirements. More than 40% of South Carolina residents live in areas that require masks, according to The State.
According to a government website,”Masks have never been required, but South Dakotans are encouraged to continue to consider CDC guidance and use.” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is a Republican.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee granted mayors in 89 Tennessee counties the power to enforce mask mandates in the event of a COVID-19 case surge, according to a July 3, 2020, press release. There is no statewide mask requirement. A state-sanctioned “TN Strong Mask Movement” partnered an economic recovery group with flagship brands to “distribute over 300,000 free or low-cost cloth face coverings across the Volunteer State,” according to Tennessee business guidance.
Our rating: Missing context
We rate this claim MISSING CONTEXT, based on our research, because without additional information it could be misleading. A Facebook post accurately lists 16 states without statewide mask mandates, along with their Republican governors. But the claim did not include certain conditional mandates, such as mask requirements adopted and upheld by local governments. Further, some states had mask mandates that now have expired; the meme doesn’t account for those instances.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, March 5, “Texas isn’t alone. These 15 states also do not currently have a statewide mask mandate.”
- USA TODAY, March 4, “Five states are rolling back mask mandates. More could be on the way. Here’s what it could mean for all of us.”
- USA TODAY, March 3, “Joe Biden calls it ‘a big mistake’ for states to lift mask mandates; North Dakota has nation’s worst virus rate: Latest COVID-19 updates”
- Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, July 14, 2020, “CDC calls on Americans to wear masks to prevent COVID-19 spread”
- Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, accessed March 15, “COVID Data Tracker”
- Office of the Texas Governor Greg Abbott, March 2, “Governor Abbott Lifts Mask Mandate, Opens Texas 100 Percent”
- Office of Governor Mike Dunleavy, March 10, “Alaska leads the nation in pandemic response”
- Office of Governor Mike Dunleavy, Nov.12, 2020,: “Governor Dunleavy Urges Alaskans to Take Immediate Action to Slow COVID-19”
- News 7 KWWL, Feb. 8: “LIST: Cities and counties keeping mask mandates”
- State of Iowa, Feb. 5: “Proclamation of Disaster Emergency”
- State of Iowa, March 5: “Proclamation of Disaster Emergency”
- Idaho Office of the Governor, Feb. 2: “Idaho advances to Stage 3 as COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations decline”
- The State of Georgia, Aug. 15, 2020: “Executive Order: Empowering a Health Georgia”
- State of Florida Office of the Governor, accessed March 12: “Executive Order Number 20-52”
- Fox 13 Tampa Bay, Feb. 18: “Challenge to Florida mask mandate heads to state Supreme Court”
- AZ Central, Feb. 15: “Bill would give Arizona businesses a choice on enforcing mask mandates”
- Office of the Governor Doug Ducey, March 5, 2021: “Governor Ducey Announces Next Phase Of Business And Safety Protocols”
- Municipality of Anchorage, March 4: “Acting Mayor Issues Emergency Order EO-19 “Make it a Safe Spring””
- Office of Governor Tate Reeves, accessed Marc 12: “Governor Tate Reeves”
- KSDK, Nov. 19, 2020: “Missouri ‘state of emergency’ over COVID-19 extended into 2021”
- Springfield News-Leader, March 6: “Which Missouri cities and counties still have COVID-19 mask mandates?”
- Clarion Ledger, March 4: “‘Premature and reckless’: Mayors in some MS cities continue mask mandate after governor lifts order”
- Lincoln Journal Star, Dec. 23, 2020: “Ricketts says no mask mandate, readies communications campaign”
- Office of Governor Pete Ricketts, Nov. 11, 2020, “Protect Our Hospitals”
- North Dakota Office of the Governor, Nov. 13, 2020, “Burgum announces new requirements for businesses, gatherings and masks, delays winter activities to slow spread of COVID-19”
- Grand Forks Herald, Jan. 15, “North Dakota’s statewide mask mandate will expire next week, Burgum says”
- Grand Forks Herald, Feb. 22, “North Dakota House advances bill barring government from mandating masks”
- The Oklahoman, March 1,: “Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to lift coronavirus restrictions, despite CDC warnings”
- The State, Jan. 23, “Biden issued new mask mandates. Here’s what SC residents need to know”
- State of South Carolina Executive Department, March 5, “Executive Order No. 2021-12”
- COVID-19 in South Dakota, accessed March 15, “Do I have to keep wearing a mask when I am in public?”
- Republican Governors Association, accessed March 15, “2021 State of Party Control”
- State of Montana Newsroom, accessed March 15, “GOVERNOR GIANFORTE ISSUES NEW DIRECTIVES, EXECUTIVE ORDER”
- Tennessee Office of the Governor, July 3, 2020, “Gov. Lee Grants Mayors in 89 Counties Authority to Issue COVID-19 Mask Requirements”
- Tennessee Office of the Governor, accessed March 15, “TN Strong Mask Movement”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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