'It may save your life': Facing virus surge, more U.S. states mandate masks

by Reuters
Friday, 19 June 2020 01:14 GMT

By Andrew Hay

June 18 (Reuters) - California, North Carolina and a string of U.S. cities mandated or urged mandatory mask use on Thursday to get a grip on spiraling coronavirus cases as at least six states set daily records.

Putting aside concerns about individual rights and political unpopularity, U.S. governors and mayors said they were turning to compulsory face coverings to stop the virus running out of control as economies reopened.

On a day when Florida posted 3,207 new cases, its second daily record in a week, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings ordered obligatory mask use, telling residents of Orlando and other cities it would help them avoid a second shutdown.

California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered mask use in most places as the state for the second day in a row registered over 4,000 new cases.

As Arizona posted another daily case record, the Democratic mayors of Tucson and Phoenix respectively ordered and prepared to vote on mandatory face coverings after Republican Governor Doug Ducey bowed to pressure and let cities set mask rules.

"This piece of protection may even save your life," North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper told reporters, adding that he was considering statewide obligatory mask use on a day when statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations set a new high.

A month after many governors reopened their economies, a growing number are adopting U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance that masks are essential to prevent community spread.

Resistance to face masks took on a partisan edge after President Donald Trump opposed them, telling the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Thursday that some people wear them to show opposition to him.

But with businesses ranging from Las Vegas casinos to hardware chains requiring their use, masks are becoming commonplace in the United States.

In Texas, the mayors of the state's nine biggest cities asked Republican Governor Greg Abbott this week to grant them authority to set mask regulations.

As Oklahoma reported its second day of record coronavirus cases, the Tulsa arena hosting a Trump rally on Saturday said it would encourage all attendees to remain masked throughout the event and issue staff with personal protective gear.

Trump has pushed ahead with the rally - which would be the biggest U.S. indoor social gathering in three months - even as health experts worry assembling thousands of people inside an arena - particularly if many are not wearing masks - could turn it into a virus "super-spreader event."

Nationwide, COVID-19 cases rose by 26,357 on Thursday to about 2.2 million, according to a Reuters tally, marking the biggest daily increase in nearly two weeks. There have been 118,377 U.S. deaths, an increase of 684 on Thursday. (Reporting by Andrew Hay in Cañon, New Mexico; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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