by Peter Mertz
DENVER, July 19 (NNN-AGENCIES) – With COVID-19 cases spiking nationwide, corporate America pushed political leaders towards mandating mask wearing this week, while vocal conservatives protested their loss of civil liberties in their opposition.
The corporate avalanche mandating mask wearing began last Wednesday, with mega-retailer Walmart’s announcement, followed by grocer giant Fred Meyer, Kohl’s, Best Buy, and Starbucks.
“To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear face covering starting Monday, July 20,” Walmart U.S. chief operating officer, Dacona Smith, said in a blog.
This week, a host of conservative states reversed course and mandated mask wearing, including Republican governors, Kay Ivey and Asa Hutchinson, from Alabama and Arkansas on Thursday.
On Friday, Colorado became one of the first western states to make mask wearing mandatory, as the western state hit COVID-19 case totals not seen since May 1, with hospitals filling fast.
The order for wearing a face mask applies to everyone in the state, who is age 11 and older, whenever they’re anywhere in public and indoors. People who have medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from wearing face masks are exempt.
Colorado saw 618 new COVID-19 cases Friday, with 39,344 cases and 1,751 deaths confirmed, since the pandemic broke, according to the Colorado Department of Health.
“We have a choice in Colorado: either more mask wearing and more attention to social distancing, or more damage to our economy and loss of life,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis said, at a news conference, Thursday.
Polis, a Democrat, has been aggressive about steps to reopen Colorado, but like in many states, backpedalled as a resurgence of cases swept from coast to coast.
Polis was immediately attacked by local Republicans on Twitter.
“The governor is on a power trip and his mask mandate is a clear violation of our civil liberties. I retained counsel with the intent to see you. Stay tuned,” Patrick Neville, a member of the Colorado House of Representatives, said Friday on Twitter.
Unlike Colorado, Republican-run states in U.S. West are still resisting mandating mask wearing, although many governors are telling citizens to cover up.
“More personal contact among people, as the state economy reopens, and more available testing has contributed to new COVID-19 cases hitting record highs that began at the end of June,” KTVH-DT television station in Montana said this week.
The COVID-19 spike had been tied to the Fourth of July weekend, health officials said in Montana, reported Montana Public TV (MPTV) on Friday.
“While most of the newest COVID-19 cases come from the more populous Missoula and Yellowstone counties, health officials in Northwest Montana see a steep rise in case, stemming from July 4 holiday gatherings.”
Montana Governor, Steve Bullock’s statewide mask mandate came, after hundreds of Montana residents, business owners, and healthcare leaders demanded the move as viral cases mounted in the state.
As of Friday, Montana confirmed 137 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 2,366, according to Montana Free Press.
On Thursday, in Utah, “a public meeting about a school mask policy was postponed, moments after it began because dozens of people not wearing masks showed up to protest,” USA Today reported.
Utah Republican Governor, Gary Herbert, announced July 8, he was considering a statewide edict on face coverings, and, despite record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalisations in the state, anti-mask forces took to social media to stage the hostile act, NBC News reported.
A similar scene of chaos erupted in Utah’s northern neighbour Idaho, where a meeting by health department officials on a mask mandate was cancelled, after “a large number of protesters” turned up at the building and forced their way inside, according to several media sources.
Health departments in several Idaho counties mandated mask wearing this week, as cases soared with more than 4,400 as of Tuesday, according to health department data.
But political analysts said, it’s unlikely that conservative Governor, Brad Little, would put a mask order in place, following the standard Republican line, according to local 104.3 Country Radio.
*Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of UMMnews.