Without masks and a vaccine, we could reach Herd Immunity from COVID-19, but deaths would skyrocket. We break down the science of it.
The claim: Florida, Georgia, Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee are now mask-free
A viral meme claiming five states are do not have facial covering requirements has been circulating on social media. In the image, two women posing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge make the “V” peace sign with their fingers. Text over the image reads, “Florida, Georgia, Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee are now mask free!”
The Facebook user who posted the image did not return a request for comment.
Similar posts, with several or all of the states listed, have gone viral, as well.
As COVID-19 continues to spread, 33 states have mandated cloth face masks, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say can slow or prevent the virus’ spread.
More: Fact check: What’s true and what’s false about face masks?
Localized mask mandates mean states are not ‘mask-free’
It’s true that none of the five states in the viral meme has statewide mask mandates, but several large cities and counties have implemented their own.
In Florida, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, Tampa and Hillsborough County have mask requirements. However, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Sept. 25 that took the teeth out of those requirements. Under the order, local governments can not charge fines or penalties for noncompliance with local mask mandates.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced Monday that she had tested positive for COVID-19, is mandating the use of face masks in the city. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp previously banned local ordinances requiring masks. On Aug. 15, he revised the order, allowing for local ordinances to protect public health. Atlanta, Savannah, Athens-Clarke County and other large Georgia counties have implemented mask mandates.
Idaho has has allowed employers and local government bodies to enact restrictions to protect public health. The city of Boise, along with at least seven counties in eastern Idaho have mandated masks.
South Dakota: More than a month after Brookings passed mask mandate, community still torn
In South Dakota, the city of Brookings — home of South Dakota State University — requires masks to be worn in public. Mayors of other large cities like Sioux Falls, as well as some counties have urged the public to wear masks, but stopped short of issuing an ordinance, according to previous reporting by the USA TODAY Network.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and state health officials have urged residents to “wear face coverings in public places.”
Tennessee: White House says TN mask mandate ‘must be implemented’
Lee has left it up to counties to decide whether to implement a mask mandate, and Tennessee’s major cities and counties have done so, including Nashville and Davidson County, and Knox, Hamilton and Shelby counties, which are home to Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis, respectively. Sullivan County, which houses the Tri-Cities area of Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Monday ordered a return to some restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus as intertwined health care systems across the state showed early signs of buckling.
The Republican governor returned the state to stage 3 of his four-stage reopening plan and said indoor gatherings will be limited to 50 people or fewer, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25% of capacity.… Read More
An Idaho county health board on Thursday voted to overturn a mandatory mask mandate just one day after the area’s main hospital reported that it was at 99 percent capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The board struck down the mandate in a 4-3 decision Thursday, with the county now recommending residents wear masks without imposing fines for noncompliance.
According to the Spokesman-Review, the mandate was first implemented in Kootenai County in July following a spike in COVID-19 cases. However, the outlet reported that the mandate was largely ignored and not properly enforced by local authorities.
Health board member Glen Bailey had proposed ending the mandate, arguing that it “restricts people’s right of choice and ability to comply or not comply under penalty of law,” according to the Spokesman-Review.
The decision came after officials from area hospital Kootenai Health on Wednesday issued a press release saying that it was almost at capacity, adding that nearby hospitals were also almost full and would not accept new patients.
The press release added that based on tests at Kootenai Health, the county is “seeing the highest rate of positivity since the start of the pandemic,” and that it was “looking at hospitals beyond our normal transfer area to see what is available” to accommodate additional patients.
“Our hospitals, health district and emergency responders are relying on our community for support,” the statement read. “The best way forward is to keep up with efforts that will flatten the uptick in cases in our region.”
The press release then outlined several actions it recommended for people to help stem the spread of COVID-19 in the area, including wearing face masks around people outside of one’s household, washing hands for at least 20 seconds, avoiding public areas and cleaning frequently touched surfaces often.
Amid public backlash on the health board’s decision, the Panhandle Health District issued a public statement alerting people that its coronavirus hotline “is mainly staffed with volunteers that have nothing to do with the Board’s decisions.”
“They manage their fair share of angry callers with grace and patience, but please direct comments about the board meeting to the board,” the notice said.
Idaho has been one of several states experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reporting 950 newly confirmed cases on Thursday, bringing the state’s confirmed case total to 56,600.
Kootenai County is now in the Panhandle Health District’s highest risk coronavirus category. According to The New York York Times COVID-19 database, the county had 96 newly confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 3,724 infections and 48 deaths.
Boise, Idaho — Moments after hearing an Idaho hospital was overwhelmed by
“Most of our medical surgical beds at Kootenai Health are full,” Panhandle Health District epidemiologist Jeff Lee told board members in the state’s third most populated county.
The hospital in Coeur d’Alene reached 99% capacity a day earlier, even after doubling up patients in rooms and buying more hospital beds. Idaho is one of several states where a surge of COVID-19 infections is overwhelming hospitals, likely in part because cooler weather is sending people indoors, U.S. health officials said.
“We’re facing staff shortages, and we have a lot of physician fatigue. This has been going on for seven months — we’re tired,” Lee said.
He introduced several doctors who testified about the struggle COVID-19 patients face, the burden on hospitals and how masks reduce the spread of the virus.
But the board voted 4-3 to end the mask mandate. Board members overseeing the operations of Idaho’s public health districts are appointed by county commissioners and not required to have any medical experience.
Board member Walt Kirby said he was giving up on the idea of controlling the spread of coronavirus.
“I personally do not care whether anybody wears a mask or not. If they want to be dumb enough to walk around and expose themselves and others, that’s fine with me,” Kirby said. “Nobody’s wearing the damned mask anyway… I’m sitting back and watching them catch it and die. Hopefully I’ll live through it.”
Another member, Allen Banks, denied COVID-19 exists.
“Something’s making these people sick, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not coronavirus, so the question that you should be asking is, ‘What’s making them sick?'” he told the medical professionals who testified.
Similar scenes — with doctors and nurses asking officials for help, only to be met with reluctance or even open skepticism — have played out across the conservative state. Idaho is sixth in the nation for new coronavirus cases per capita, with the average number of confirmed cases increasing by more than 55% every day over the past two weeks.
Still, Republican Gov. Brad Little has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate or limit crowd sizes beyond requiring social distancing at large events and in businesses, which is seldom enforced. Instead, Little has left it up to local health departments and school districts to make the tough decisions that sometimes come with blowback from the public.
In the southern city of Twin Falls, hospital officials told health board members this week that they too were
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Moments after hearing an Idaho hospital was overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and looking at sending people as far away as Seattle for care, members of a regional health department board voted Thursday to repeal a local mask mandate.
“Most of our medical surgical beds at Kootenai Health are full,” Panhandle Health District epidemiologist Jeff Lee told board members in the state’s third most populated county.… Read More
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho is seeing its largest coronavirus spike since the pandemic began, with the number of new cases increasing 46.5% over the past two weeks.
That has some health care experts urging Gov. Brad Little to take additional action to slow the spread of the virus.… Read More