Fact check: Florida, Georgia, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee don't require masks statewide

Brittany Crocker, USA TODAY
·4 min read

The claim: Florida, Georgia, Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee are now mask-free

A viral meme claiming five states do not have facial-covering requirements has been circulating on social media. In the image, two women posing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge make the "V" peace sign with their fingers. Text over the image reads, "Florida, Georgia, Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee are now mask free!"

The Facebook user who posted the image did not return a request for comment.

Similar posts, with several or all of the states listed, have gone viral as well.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, 33 states have mandated cloth face masks, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say can slow or prevent the virus' spread.

More: Fact check: What's true and what's false about face masks?

Localized mask mandates mean states are not 'mask-free'

It's true that none of the five states in the viral meme has statewide mask mandates, but several large cities and counties have implemented their own.

In Florida, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, Tampa and Hillsborough County have mask requirements. However, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Sept. 25 that took the teeth out of those requirements. Under the order, local governments cannot charge fines or penalties for noncompliance with local mask mandates.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp previously banned local ordinances requiring masks. On Aug. 15, he revised the order, allowing for local ordinances to protect public health. Atlanta, Savannah, Athens-Clarke County and other large Georgia counties have implemented mask mandates.

Idaho has allowed employers and local government bodies to enact restrictions to protect public health. The city of Boise, along with at least seven counties in eastern Idaho, have mandated masks.

South Dakota: More than a month after Brookings passed mask mandate, community still torn

In South Dakota, the city of Brookings – home of South Dakota State University –requires masks be worn in public. Mayors of other large cities, like Sioux Falls, as well as some counties, have urged the public to wear masks, but stopped short of issuing an ordinance, according to previous reporting by the USA TODAY Network.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and state health officials have urged residents to “wear face coverings in public places."

Tennessee: White House says TN mask mandate 'must be implemented'

Lee has left it up to counties to decide whether to implement a mask mandate, and Tennessee's major cities and counties have done so, including Nashville and Davidson County, and Knox, Hamilton and Shelby counties, which are home to Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis, respectively. Sullivan County, home to the Tri-Cities area of Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol, also has a local mask mandate.

Our ruling: Partly false

While it's true that Florida, Georgia, Idaho, South Dakota and Tennessee have not issued statewide mask mandates, local government bodies have issued ordinances requiring citizens in large population centers and smaller municipalities to wear masks while in public. Because masks are required in parts of each state, these states cannot be considered "mask-free." We rate this claim as PARTLY FALSE, based on our research.

Our fact-check sources

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Idaho, S.D. aren't mask-free