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As many American cities report exponential case growth, leaders elsewhere are moving quickly to require face coverings in hopes of avoiding a similar fate.

“Let’s learn from Texas and Florida and what’s happening there now,” Dr. Rex Archer, the director of health in Kansas City, Mo., said Friday as his city moved to require masks inside businesses. “Their mitigations and closures weren’t as quickly adopted or embraced.”

In Anchorage, where case numbers are increasing but not exploding, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said masks would be required at restaurants and stores next week. Taking that step now, he said, could limit the need for more drastic steps later.

“I do not want to go back to a hunker-down period,” Mr. Berkowitz said.

And in Little Rock, Ark., where cases have been ticking upward, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. cited alarming epidemiological forecasts in an order requiring masks in his city. Mr. Scott said he had recently tested negative for the virus.

“During the test results waiting period, my mind was centered on the times I inadvertently failed to where a mask, and whom could have been impacted,” Mr. Scott said on Twitter.

But Americans over all have received mixed messages from the start of the pandemic about the need for masks. The surgeon general in February tweeted a message encouraging Americans to “STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching” the coronavirus. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends cloth face coverings “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Even in some states with surging outbreaks, the guidance has been inconsistent. In Texas, for example, Gov. Greg Abbott declared the state open for business, but as cases began to rise he urged Texans to stay home. He has said Texans should wear masks, but he has refused to issue a statewide mandate.


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