Viral Facebook posts misleadingly claim that Florida, Georgia, Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee have become “mask free.” None has a statewide mask mandate — but individual cities and counties in each of those states do have orders requiring face coverings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
As COVID-19 cases in the U.S. grew to more than 7.4 million — including President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump — and surpassed 209,000 deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continued to urge measures to stop the spread of the pandemic, such as frequent hand washing and social distancing. The CDC also recommends that people “wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in [their] household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
In early October, 33 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, had implemented orders requiring face coverings in public, according to information compiled by AARP.
Wearing a face mask, however, has become a polarizing issue in the U.S., with some Americans viewing the masks as a limitation on personal freedom. Viral memes on Facebook now misleadingly claim that in some states there are no requirements at all for wearing face masks.
“FLORIDA, GEORGIA, IDAHO, SOUTH DAKOTA & TENNESSEE ARE NOW MASK FREE!!!”, one post claims, and shows a photo of two women holding up their hands with the “V” for victory sign.
None of those states has a statewide mandate requiring face coverings. But it is inaccurate to characterize them as mask-free. Individual cities and counties in each of the states has orders in place that mandate face coverings.
In Florida, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County and Hillsborough County, which constitute about 21% of the state’s population, have mandates on face coverings.
In early July, a public health emergency order requiring face coverings went into effect in Boise, the capital of Idaho. Jefferson and Fremont counties began requiring face masks in August.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, the most populous city in Georgia, issued an executive order requiring face masks on July 8. Other cities in North Georgia began requiring face coverings in late August.
Knox County, Shelby County, Memphis and Nashville, which account for nearly 40% of Tennessee’s population, have mandates on face coverings.
On Sept. 10, Brookings City became the first county in South Dakota to require face coverings.
In addition, the state health departments in Florida, Georgia, Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee all recommend the use of face coverings in public settings.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.
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