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But masks on Wednesday moved ever closer to becoming a new national reality in America’s pandemic-scarred life, with businesses, states and health experts preaching their promise as the country’s last line of defense against a fast-growing viral threat.
Even as the White House continued to resist pushing for a national mask mandate, evidence abounded that face coverings were becoming a de facto requirement — and not only in big cities where they have been in widespread use for months.
Governors in two conservative states — Alabama and Montana — said Wednesday that people would be obligated to wear masks while in public. The announcements, which came as Alabama recorded a new single-day peak in covid-19 deaths and Montana hit a new high for cases, mean that nearly half of all states now have a mask mandate.
The world’s largest retailer and a staple of rural communities nationwide, Walmart Inc., issued the same requirement for shoppers in its stores. A powerful trade group quickly embraced the choice, raising the prospect that other major chains will soon follow."