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95 Percent of Americans Now Wear Face Masks after State Mandates and Trump's 'Patriotic' Endorsement

Newsweek logo Newsweek 7/31/2020 Hannah Osborne
a close up of a person wearing a mask: President Donald Trump wearing a face mask on July 27. Uptake of mass use is increasing in the U.S. © JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images President Donald Trump wearing a face mask on July 27. Uptake of mass use is increasing in the U.S.

Almost all adults in the U.S. now wear face masks while out in public, with 79 percent saying they always wear them and 16 percent saying sometimes do, totaling 95 percent. This is more than a month ago, when 83 percent said they were using face masks all the time, often or sometimes.

A poll conducted by Morning Consult between July 23 and 26 found 94 percent of respondents either planned to wear a mask always or sometimes in the next two weeks.

The latest results appear to show the level of uptake of face masks has increased in the last three weeks.

In a Gallup survey, taken between June 29 and July 5, results showed nine in 10 people said they had worn a face mask at some point in the last week. However, regular adoption was lacking, with 14 percent saying they never wore them and four percent saying they rarely used and 11 percent saying they sometimes used them. Twenty eight percent said they "often" wore them, while 44 percent said they wore them all the time.

Since the start of July, an increasing number of states have made face masks mandatory. Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an order that said everyone above the age of 10 must wear a mask while in indoor public spaces, and outdoor spaces if social distancing could not be maintained. On July 20, a statewide mask order came into effect in Arkansas, after Governor Asa Hutchinson announced everyone over 10 must wear masks in situations where they are with people who do not live in their households and cannot maintain social distancing.

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According to CNN, only 18 states now have no rules requiring people to wear face masks when in public spaces.

There has been widespread support for mask orders. According to a poll by Harvard CAPS/Harris, released by The Hill, 79 percent of people said they supported a national face mask mandate. Seven in 10 respondents also said they agreed with the idea of fines for people who do not wear masks.

Messages from health officials about the use of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic have been mixed. Initially, the World Health Organization did not recommend their use. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially said only healthcare workers need to wear them for protection. However, it later updated its advice and now recommends all people wear them in public settings and when with those from other households. It says masks may help prevent those who have the virus from spreading it to others.

The advice on masks and their effectiveness against the disease has largely changed in line with scientific evidence on how the disease spreads and how effective masks are. Evidence increasingly suggests the virus is airborne. One study published in PNAS on June 30 found air to be a dominant route of transmission, with researchers concluding: "We conclude that wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic."

Political attitudes towards masks have also started to shift. President Donald Trump was pictured wearing one for the first time on July 11. Prior to this he had been reluctant to support the preventative measure. "I just don't want to wear one myself," he said in April. "It's a recommendation, they recommend it. I'm feeling good."

On July 21, however, he tweeted a picture of himself wearing one, saying it was "patriotic" to wear a face mask when you cannot socially distance. "There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President," he wrote.

According to the Morning Consult poll, Democrats are still more likely than Republicans to wear face masks, but the difference has narrowed significantly. It found 90 percent of Democrats planned to "always" wear a mask in public spaces over the next two weeks, compared with 72 percent of Republicans. In the Gallup poll three weeks earlier, when asked how often they wear a mask outside their homes, 94 percent of Democrats said always or very often, compared with 46 percent of Republicans.

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