The governor of Washington state on Tuesday ordered residents to wear face masks in public as officials across the country sought new means to control the coronavirus pandemic while easing clamp-downs on residents and reopening the economy.
The move by Washington Governor Jay Inslee came as Arizona, California, Mississippi and Nevada reported record numbers of new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Texas set a record on Monday.
Washington state, site of one of the first known outbreaks of COVID-19, saw its positive tests rise by 35 percent last week.
“This is about saving lives. It’s about reopening our businesses. And it’s about showing respect and care for one another,” Inslee, a two-term governor who earlier this year sought the Democratic nomination for president, said of the face-mask rule.
While the United States appeared to have curbed the outbreak for several weeks in May, overall cases rose 25% last week, with 10 states reporting a greater than 50% rise in new infections, according to a Reuters analysis.
About a dozen other U.S. states and some major cities have face-covering rules. California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, last week told residents to wear masks at nearly all times outside the home.
A sharp spike of COVID-19 cases in the state’s agricultural breadbasket has prompted a hospital in Lodi to stop accepting some patients who have other illnesses. California on Monday reported a record increase of over 6,000 new cases, according to a Reuters tally.
Throughout the United States, the virus is moving into rural areas and other places that it had not initially penetrated deeply. It is also renewing its surge in states, including Arizona and Texas, where restrictions meant to slow its spread were lifted early.