U.S.|Despite new C.D.C. mask guidance, the U.S. patchwork of mandates will take time to unravel.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered on Tuesday new guidance about when masks should be worn outdoors, people across the United States are living under an often confusing patchwork of limits, one that could continue for some time.
Before the C.D.C.’s changes on Tuesday, 25 states had some form of statewide mask mandate, as did the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, according to a New York Times tracker of coronavirus restrictions across the country. In 24 other states there was no statewide mask mandate, while in Colorado masks could be required depending upon the number of cases diagnosed in a county.
But even within a state, mask mandates can vary based upon county or city. Kansas has no statewide mask mandates, but a number of cities and counties have their own orders. In Colorado, masks must always be worn in specific indoor locations — like schools, hospitals and government buildings — but in some counties with a high rate of new cases, they must also be worn in all public indoor settings with 10 or more people.
After the C.D.C.’s announcement on Tuesday, a handful of governors said they would relax their outdoor mask mandates. In Massachusetts, masks won’t be required unless it is not possible to social distance. Maine recommends wearing a mask outdoors when it’s difficult to stay distanced, and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said on Tuesday that “if you’re fully vaccinated, outdoors and not in a large crowd — you do not need to wear a mask.”
Some outdoor mask requirements are even more specific, especially as a number of states have recently loosened orders. Masks are now only required outdoors in Kentucky at events with more than 1,000 people. Delaware recently removed a mask mandate for outdoor low-risk and medium-risk youth sports.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Tuesday that New York would adopt the C.D.C.’s guidance on outdoor mask wearing. “That is liberating, especially now that the weather is getting warmer,” he said at a news conference.
Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee announced the end of statewide public health orders and issued an executive order that ends the authority of local officials to issue mask requirements in the 89 counties directed by the state health department. He also asked larger counties with their own health departments to lift restrictions like mask requirements by Memorial Day. The mayor of Knox County, which includes Knoxville, said Tuesday afternoon he would end a county mask mandate effective at midnight Tuesday.
Louisiana will lift its mask requirement for private businesses like restaurants and bars, Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Tuesday, but will keep the mask mandate for schools, universities and public transit. Mr. Edwards said mask requirements by businesses and local governments should still be adhered to.
At a White House news conference on Tuesday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., stopped short of calling for states to end outdoor mask mandates. “States that have mask requirements outdoors, if people are vaccinated, we no longer feel the vaccinated people require masks outdoors,” she said. She said she continued to worry about protecting unvaccinated people at large outdoor public venues like concerts and sports stadiums.
As more than half of all American adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, mask mandates are often the last widespread public health order still in effect. Stay-at-home orders and forced business closures, measures sometimes used to try and stop the spread of the virus, have mostly been lifted across the country, though they persist in a few states.