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Big U.S. banks’ day of reckoning is delayed

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Heading into third-quarter earnings season, analysts were expecting relatively upbeat results for the largest U.S. banks.

Credit costs were expected to decline from the previous quarter, and they did, to a greater extent than expected. Among the 10 largest U.S. banks, eight reported better-than-expected earnings, with some beating estimates by a wide margin.

But most of the stocks have declined since earnings season began. Below are tables comparing actual results to analysts’ estimates and to previous quarters.

Loan losses rise only slightly

The largest banks made outsized provisions for credit losses (the amount added to loan loss reserves, which directly lowers pre-tax earnings) during the first and second quarters, to prepare for an expected wave of loan defaults. This is normal activity in any recession.

So two quarters of earnings were depressed or wiped out for many banks that focus on lending, as opposed to trust and custody or investment banks. That changed during the third quarter, with much lower provisions.

Capital One Financial Corp.
US:COF
released $742 million in loan loss reserves during the third quarter — that is, the bank’s net loan charge-offs exceeded its provisions for reserves by that much, boosting earnings. Its loan losses during the third quarter were down tremendously from the second quarter of 2020 and even from the year-earlier quarter.

During a recession and recovery cycle, sequential comparisons of banks’ results can be more important than the usual year-over-year comparisons, not only because of loan defaults and losses but because of the rapid decline in interest rates. For the largest banks, third-quarter provisions were down significantly from the second quarter.

Here are the 10 largest U.S. banks by total assets, with third-quarter provisions for loan losses compared with consensus estimates among analysts polled by FactSet from our Oct. 8 earnings preview, along with actual figures for the previous quarter and the third quarter of 2019.

All dollar figures in the following tables are in millions, except for total assets, which are in billions. Scroll the table to see all the data.

Bank

Ticker

Provision for loan loss reserves – Q3 2020

Estimated provision for loan losses – Q3 2020 – Oct. 7

Actual Q3 provision, less estimate

Provision for loan loss reserves – Q2 2020

Provision for loan loss reserves – Q3 2019

Total assets ($ billions)

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

US:JPM $611

$2,885

-$2,274

$10,473

$1,514

$3,246

Bank of America Corp

US:BAC $1,389

$2,236

-$847

$5,117

$779

$2,738

Citigroup Inc.

US:C $1,809

$4,004

-$2,195

$7,903

$2,071

$2,234

Wells Fargo & Co.

US:WFC $769

$1,921

-$1,152

$9,534

$695

$1,922

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

US:GS $278

$550

-$272

$1,590

$291

$1,132

Morgan Stanley

US:MS $0

N/A

N/A

$246

$0

$956

U.S. Bancorp

US:USB $635

$806

-$171

$1,737

$367

$540

Truist Financial Corp.

US:TFC $421

$603

-$182

$844

$117

$499

PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

US:PNC $52

$394

-$342

$2,463

$183

$462

Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

US:BK $9

$40

-$31

$143

-$16

$428

Capital One Financial Corp.

US:COF 331 

$2,160

-$1,829

$4,246

$1,383

$422

State Street Corp.

US:STT $0

$18

-$18

$52

$2

$272

Source: FactSet

Click on the tickers for more about each bank holding company, including news coverage, analysts’ ratings and price targets.

“The jury is still out” on how severely the pandemic credit crisis will be for loan portfolios, according to Pri de Silva, a senior corporate bond analyst at Aware Asset Management in New York. During an interview, de Silva said credit losses tend to peak at the end of a recession.

“That trend should hold steady this time. If you look at the COVID-19 recession, three quarters in, losses are still in line with 2019.”

Net charge-offs are loan balances written off and charged against reserves, less any recoveries. Here are those totals from the third quarter, compared with the second quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2019:

Bank

Ticker

Net charge-offs – Q3 2020

Net charge-offs – Q2 2020

Net charge-offs – Q3 2019

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

US:JPM $1,200

$1,560

$1,371

Bank of America Corp

US:BAC $972

$1,146

$811

Citigroup Inc.

US:C $1,919

$2,206

$1,913

Wells Fargo & Co.

US:WFC $683

$1,113

$645

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

US:GS $340

N/A

N/A

Morgan Stanley

US:MS N/A

N/A

N/A

U.S. Bancorp

US:USB $515

$437

$352

Truist Financial Corp.

US:TFC
 

$326

$390

$153

PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

US:PNC $155

$236

$155

Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

US:BK -$2

-$3

$1

Capital One Financial Corp.

US:COF $1,073

$1,505

$1,462

State Street Corp.

US:STT
 

$0

$0

$0

Source: FactSet

For most of the big banks listed here, net charge-offs declined sequentially during the third quarter. Here’s another look at charge-off activity relative to average loans:

Bank

Ticker

Net charge-offs/ avg. loans – Q3 2020

Net charge-offs/ avg. loans – Q2, 2020

Net charge-offs/ avg. loans – Q3, 2019

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

US:JPM 0.63%

0.59%

0.59%

Bank of America Corp

US:BAC 0.47%

0.44%

0.37%

Citigroup Inc.

US:C N/A

1.21%

1.15%

Wells Fargo & Co.

US:WFC 0.48%

0.37%

0.28%

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

US:GS N/A

0.70%

0.57%

Morgan Stanley

US:MS N/A

0.09%

0.01%

U.S. Bancorp

US:USB 0.56%

0.50%

0.48%

Truist Financial Corp.

US:TFC N/A

0.34%

0.38%

PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

US:PNC 0.37%

0.32%

0.24%

Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

US:BK -0.01%

-0.01%

0.00%

Capital One Financial Corp.

US:COF 1.72%

2.38%

2.38%

State Street Corp.

US:STT 0.22%

0.07%

0.00%

Source: FactSet

Net charge-off ratios aren’t yet available for all the banks because average loans won’t be available until their full 10-Q reports are filed. But you can see small sequential and year-over-year increases in net charge-off rates, which are still at historically low levels for any economy. Capital One Financial’s charge-off rates are higher than the others because of its concentration in credit-card loans, which made up 42% of the bank’s total loans held for investment as of Sept. 30. That also explains Capital One’s much higher net interest margin, below.

During J.P. Morgan Chase’s
US:JPM
 third-quarter earnings call, CEO Jamie Dimon said that under his team’s “base case” economic projections, the bank was “probably something like $10 billion over-reserved.” Dimon also cautioned that it was “hard to predict” the direction and timing of a continuing economic recovery and said the bank was “prepared for a relatively adverse case.”

Being over-reserved by $10 billion points to an eventually release of reserves that would pad earnings and support good comparisons several quarters out. When asked about $10 billion in potential reserve releases, de Silva said “it is possible.”

JPM, Citigroup
US:C
 and Bank of America
US:BAC
 “have reserved the most because they are the biggest credit card issuers. Any time realized losses come in better than expected, those are the ones that are going to outperform,” de Silva said.

Dan Eye, head of asset allocation and equity research at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh, said JPM is his favorite stock in the space right now, because of its “fortress balance sheet, great management team and great capital position.”

But Mark Doctoroff, the global co-head of MUFG’s Financial Institutions Group, said it’s too early to expect a rosy credit cycle. The effect of the federal government’s stimulus programs to help consumers and businesses, along with loan forbearances for mortgage borrowers and delays of evictions for renters who are unable to pay, has been “kind of kicking the can.”

“Going forward, stimulus talks continue and there is a lot of damage to the economy. In New York City, there are for-rent or lease signs everywhere,” he added during an interview. He expects to have a better indication of whether or not banks will see actual damage to their balance sheets from loan losses in the first quarter of 2022.

Declining interest income

With the Federal Reserve lowering the target for the short-term federal-funds rate to a range of zero to 0.25% and pushing down long-term interest rates by buying bonds, the yield curve has flattened, making it more difficult for banks to earn their usual spread income.

Bank

Ticker

Net interest income – Q3, 2020

Net interest income – Q2, 2020

Net interest income – Q3, 2019

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

US:JPM $13,013

$13,853

$14,228

Bank of America Corp

US:BAC $10,129

$10,848

$12,187

Citigroup Inc.

US:C $10,493

$11,080

$11,641

Wells Fargo & Co.

US:WFC $9,368

$9,880

$11,625

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

US:GS $1,084

$944

$1,008

Morgan Stanley

US:MS $1,486

$1,600

$1,218

U.S. Bancorp

US:USB $3,227

$3,200

$3,281

Truist Financial Corp.

US:TFC $3,362

$3,448

$1,700

PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

US:PNC $2,484

$2,527

$2,504

Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

US:BK $703

$780

$731

Capital One Financial Corp.

US:COF $5,555

$5,460

$5,737

State Street Corp.

US:STT $478

$559

$644

Source: FactSet

Net interest income was down for most of the big banks not only because of narrower spreads but because of declining lending activity. During the third quarter, mortgage lending volume declined from the second quarter, when there was a spike in refinancing activity because of the sharp decline in interest rates, according to Eye.

A bank’s net interest margin is its interest income, less interest on deposits and borrowings, divided by average total assets.

Net interest margins have narrowed for most of the big banks:

Bank

Ticker

Net interest margin – Q3, 2020

Net interest margin – Q2, 2020

Net interest margin – Q3, 2019

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

US:JPM 1.82%

1.99%

2.41%

Bank of America Corp

US:BAC 1.72%

1.87%

2.41%

Citigroup Inc.

US:C 2.03%

2.17%

2.56%

Wells Fargo & Co.

US:WFC 2.13%

2.25%

2.66%

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

US:GS N/A

0.38%

0.44%

Morgan Stanley

US:MS N/A

0.90%

0.60%

U.S. Bancorp

US:USB 2.67%

2.62%

3.02%

Truist Financial Corp.

US:TFC 3.26%

3.13%

3.37%

PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

US:PNC 2.39%

2.52%

2.84%

Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

US:BK N/A

0.88%

0.99%

Capital One Financial Corp.

US:COF 5.68%

5.78%

6.73%

State Street Corp.

US:STT 0.85%

0.93%

1.42%

Source: FactSet

There’s always hope from the banks that the yield curve will steepen.

“We can still see rates move on the longer end of the curve,” Eye said. “What would drive that would be better economic data and some inflation in the system as well.”

Those might lead to a curtailment of bond purchases by the Federal Reserve. It is also possible that a continuing $3 trillion federal budget deficit will flood the market with enough new bonds to push long-term interest rates higher.

Fee income

“You see the earnings power of banks like J.P. Morgan Chase — it is pretty impressive. But the driving factor in overperformance has been trading revenue and investment-banking fees, which are volatile,” Doctoroff said.

Here’s non-interest income for the third quarter compared with consensus estimates among analysts polled by FactSet from our Oct. 8 earnings preview, along with actual figures for the second quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2019:

Bank

Ticker

Non-interest income – Q3 2020

Estimated non-interest income – Q3 2020 – Oct. 7

Actual Q3 non-interest income less estimate

Non-interest income – Q2 2020

Non-interest income – Q3 2019

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

US:JPM $16,134

$14,911

$1,223

$24,049

$15,239

Bank of America Corp

US:BAC $10,207

$10,476

-$269

$11,512

$10,632

Citigroup Inc.

US:C $6,835

$6,501

$334

$8,773

$6,987

Wells Fargo & Co.

US:WFC $9,494

$8,266

$1,228

$12,334

$10,815

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

US:GS $9,697

$8,789

$908

$12,461

$7,805

Morgan Stanley

US:MS $10,171

$9,338

$833

$11,932

$11,052

U.S. Bancorp

US:USB $2,712

$2,504

$208

$2,049

$1,873

Truist Financial Corp.

US:TFC $2,215

$2,004

$211

$2,545

$1,195

PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

US:PNC $1,797

$1,523

$274

$1,584

$1,830

Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

US:BK $3,117

$3,131

-$14

$3,157

$3,134

Capital One Financial Corp.

US:COF $1,826

$1,157

-$1,157

$1,096

$1,222

State Street Corp.

US:STT $2,306

$2,265

$41

$2,163

$2,100

Source: FactSet

EPS

Most of the 10 largest U.S. banks beat third-quarter consensus earnings-per-share estimates:

Bank

Ticker

EPS – Q3 2020

Estimated EPS – Q3 2020 – Oct. 7

Actual Q3 EPS less estimate

EPS – Q2 2020

EPS – Q3 2019

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

US:JPM
 

$2.92

$2.22

$0.70

$1.38

$2.68

Bank of America Corp

US:BAC
 

$0.51

$0.49

$0.02

$0.37

$0.56

Citigroup Inc.

US:C
 

$1.40

$0.89

$0.51

$0.50

$2.07

Wells Fargo & Co.

US:WFC
 

$0.42

$0.44

-$0.02

-$0.66

$0.92

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

US:GS
 

$9.68

$5.28

$4.40

$0.55

$4.79

Morgan Stanley

US:MS
 

$1.66

$1.24

$0.42

$1.96

$1.27

U.S. Bancorp

US:USB
 

$0.99

$0.90

$0.09

$0.41

$1.15

Truist Financial Corp.

US:TFC
 

$0.79

$0.81

-$0.02

$0.67

$0.95

PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

US:PNC
 

$3.40

$2.02

$1.38

$8.43

$2.94

Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

US:BK
 

$0.98

$0.94

$0.04

$1.01

$1.07

Capital One Financial Corp.

US:COF
 

$5.06

$2.08

$2.98

-$2.21

$2.69

State Street Corp.

US:STT
 

$1.45

$1.41

$0.04

$1.86

$1.42

Source: FactSet

So 2020, so far, can only be called a good year for the banks — the group looked ahead during the first and second quarters and set aside a lot of money to weather the expected loan loss storm, which was delayed by unprecedented government and central-bank stimulus.

But “you can’t keep the patient on life support forever,” Doctoroff said, pointing to a possible spike in loan losses during the fourth quarter and first quarter of 2021. There’s no way of knowing how long this credit cycle may last because of all the uncertainty about containing the coronavirus.

Once there is a clear light at the end of the tunnel, reserve releases and a steepening yield curve may set up a long period of rising earnings for the banks. Eye said Fort Pitt Capital Group has “a slight overweight with the financials, so the rebound play is in line with our view.”



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My ex-wife passed away. I’m the beneficiary on her life insurance. Her family wants me to pay her funeral expenses and won’t leave me alone

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I am 32, and just a month ago I found out that my ex-wife, whom I haven’t spoken to since we divorced, passed away tragically in a moped accident. My ex-wife had life insurance through her job. My ex-mother-in-law informed my father that my ex-wife had kept me as her beneficiary on her life-insurance policy, and her family wants the money for funeral costs, bills, etc.

Not only did my ex-wife have me on her policy as the primary (and only) beneficiary, she updated my home address on the policy after we divorced. Also, I found out through the insurance company that my ex-wife had two term life-insurance policies, one for me and one for my ex-sister-in-law.

I blocked my ex-in-laws, and now I received a threatening voicemail from a blocked number, so I’ve taken it upon myself to notify the authorities. I live in New York, I am remarried, and my divorce was very simple and easy. We left the marriage with what we came into it with. The life-insurance company approved the check in my name, and is sending it to my home.

Am I legally in the clear? I have not spoken to or bothered these people once since we divorced five years ago. I just want to be left alone and move on with my life.

Thank you very much in advance.

Best regards,

Fed-Up Ex-Husband

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Fed Up,

First, I’ll deal with your life insurance concerns, and then the subject of your ex-wife’s funeral expenses.

The life-insurance policy was between your ex-wife and her insurer. It’s possible to overturn a life-insurance policy if it explicitly goes against the terms of a divorce decree, as happened in this case, but that too was a complicated lawsuit. Some states do have statutes that can revoke such beneficiary arrangements.

In “Kaye Melin and Metropolitan Life Insurance,” the children of the deceased were awarded the proceeds from the life-insurance policy, not the ex-wife who was named as beneficiary on the agreement. In that case, the law presumed that what her ex-husband wanted after their divorce was incorrect.

The ruling stated: “Thus, if a person designates a spouse as a life insurance beneficiary and later gets divorced, Minnesota law provides that the beneficiary designation is automatically revoked. At least twenty-eight other states have enacted similar revocation-upon-divorce statutes.”


‘I’m reluctant to say that you are ‘in the clear,’ given previous court rulings, and statutes in some states on the revocation of named beneficiaries post-divorce.’

I’m reluctant to say that you are “in the clear,” given previous court rulings, and statutes in some states on the revocation of named beneficiaries post-divorce. In your case, it seems clearer that your ex-wife wanted you to be the beneficiary. She did, as you say, update your address. It would be hard to see a more explicit sign of her intentions than that.

“Unless the policyholder of the life-insurance plan changes the beneficiary designation officially, the people originally named will remain the beneficiaries through the life of the policy,” according to Heban, Murphree and Lewandowski, a law firm in Toledo, Ohio. “Even if the policyholder was not on speaking terms with the individual upon his or her death, that beneficiary would still receive the income.”

“In the case of someone who divorced and remarried, the policy may name the first spouse as beneficiary. If the policyholder never changed the policy to reflect the divorce and remarriage, the ex-spouse could end up with the benefit. This can cause the current spouse and any children from the second marriage to dispute the beneficiary designation on the policy,” it adds.

But much, I suspect, would depend on what state you live in, and the specifics of your case.

On a separate issue, it’s difficult to glean from your letter whether your in-laws had little funds to pay for the funeral expenses, or were mad as hell that you were listed as beneficiary and felt you should contribute, or both. On the one hand, it seems like they are not in a state of mind to be reasonable and, chances are, if you did engage it would lead to further demands and acrimony.

Perhaps you could talk to your ex-wife’s lawyer and see if there is enough money to cover the costs of her funeral and, if not, you could make a contribution. But given the alleged harassing phone calls, their anger and grief, and their antipathy toward you, you would need to have all correspondence go through the attorney and refrain from any direct communication.

There is no excuse for their taking their grief out on you. Still, spare a thought for her family. If you are fed up, imagine how they feel.

The Moneyist: My boyfriend talked me into depositing my paychecks into his bank account, and paying for a car in his name. What can I do?

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 group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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These money and investing tips can help you when inflation is burning a hole in your wallet

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Don’t miss these top money and investing features:

These money and investing stories, popular with MarketWatch readers over the past week, focus on helping you make sense of the recent spike in U.S. inflation. Understand how rising prices can affect your investment portfolio, and taking appropriate steps now to respond, can prevent unpleasant surprises later.



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No, you’re not crazy. Yes, CDC mask guidelines are confusing — should you stop wearing a mask in public or not?

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Wear a mask. Don’t wear a mask. Make one. Buy one. Wear it outdoors. Wear it indoors.

Confused? You’re not alone.

So what’s the deal with the CDC’s new guidance? “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

Vaccines have helped to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and this appears to be a natural next step for Americans tired of masking up. “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” Walensky said.

We are still far, far away from normal. You can take off your mask “except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” the CDC says. You still need a mask on buses and trains, in museums and most stores, possibly at your place of work, but not inside restaurants, except when you’re going to the rest room.

How do you know a maskless person is vaccinated? It’s an honors system. The CDC guidance gives less reason for people to abide by that old American Express slogan: “Don’t leave home without it.” People are leaving home without their masks, even in states that still require everyone — vaccinated or not — to wear them in outdoor public spaces, including on the streets of New York.

Many people are fed up, it seems. Little wonder: The CDC’s announcement took many health professionals by surprise: According to a New York Times survey, 29% of epidemiologists surveyed thought people would be wearing masks in public spaces for at least aanother year, while 26% said they believed people would do so for another year, and 26% said they thought mask wearing would continue in some form from now on.


‘You still need a mask on buses and trains, in museums and most stores, possibly at your place of work, but not inside restaurants, except when you’re going to the rest room.’

The change in CDC mask guidelines comes just over a year since the CDC said everyone should wear masks. In April 2020, the Trump administration and the CDC reversed their policies on face masks, and said all Americans should wear cloth face coverings and not — as officials previously said — just medical workers. Trump cited “recent studies,” while the CDC cited “new evidence.”

Fast-forward to Thursday. “I think it’s a great milestone, a great day. It’s been made possible by the extraordinary success we’ve had in vaccinating so many Americans so quickly,” a maskless President Joe Biden declared in the White House Rose Garden declared, citing the vaccines from Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
+0.15%

Pfizer-BioNTech
PFE,
-0.20%

and Moderna
MRNA,
+7.68%
.

“It’s going to take a little more time for everyone who wants to get vaccinated to get their shots. So all of us, let’s be patient with one another,” the president said.

Forgive the public for having mask rules fatigue. We’ve been on quite a journey. Studies earlier in the pandemic suggested that adopting the practice of mask wearing, one that was already accepted in many Asian cultures, would have saved tens of thousands of lives. Many Americans were understandably frustrated, but also eager to do anything they could to stop the virus.

‘So what’s the deal with the CDC’s new guidance?’


MarketWatch illustration

Flashback: Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a briefing on Jan. 30 last year, “The virus is not spreading in the general community. We don’t routinely recommend the use of face masks by the public to prevent respiratory illness. And we certainly are not recommending that at this time for this new virus.”

Three months later, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, ordered all New Yorkers to cover their faces in public when they can’t maintain a proper social distance. “You’re walking down the street alone? Great! You’re now at an intersection and there are people at the intersection, and you’re going to be in proximity to other people? Put the mask on.”


‘These are just guidelines from the CDC. It’s up to the states to decide what to do next. New Jersey and New York still maintain their mask guidelines in public spaces.’

The CDC’s latest mask announcement are just guidelines. It’s up to the states to decide what to do next. And that’s a whole other story. New Jersey and New York still maintain their mask guidelines when in public spaces. Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, is examining the guidelines, a spokeswoman for his office said in a statement. Murphy, like many governors, wears a mask in his Twitter profile. Perhaps that tells us all we need to know.

Roughly half of U.S. states have some mask mandate. Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Texas, among others, had already removed their statewide mask mandates in public spaces and/or had not instituted one. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said Thursday he would grant clemency to gym owners who broke the mask mandate.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, officially ended his state’s face-mask mandate in March, and allowed businesses to reopen, despite opposition from rival lawmakers and health professionals at the time. Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, described the move as “extraordinarily dangerous” and said it “will kill Texans.”

Cuomo, meanwhile, perhaps still reeling from this time last year when New York was the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., was definitive in maintaining current policy. Keep your masks on. “In New York, we have always relied on the facts and the science to guide us throughout the worst of this pandemic and in our successful reopening,” he said in a statement.


‘People take off their masks to make phone calls on the street in states where there is a mandate to wear them in public places, and they take them off while they are sitting outdoors eating.’

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, said his state will follow the CDC guidelines. “Later today, we’ll be updating Vermont’s mask mandate following the CDC’s updated guidance, announced yesterday,” he tweeted Friday. “This will mean those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks — indoors or outdoors — nor do they need to be concerned with physical distancing.”

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, said the state updated its own policies on mask wearing to follow the CDC’s guidelines with immediate effect. Nevada Health Response added: “COVID-19 is still very much a threat in our State and many Nevadans may choose to continue using masks based on their and their families’ personal health concerns. Others should respect this choice.”

That statement, perhaps more than any other, illustrates the tension, fear and frustration not only with state laws and changing guidance, but with each other. People take off their masks to make phone calls on the street in states where there is a mandate to wear them in public places, and they take them off while they are sitting outdoors eating. Most people are doing the best they can.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said people should still wear masks in public spaces for now, but likely not after June 15 when the state fully reopens. “Only in those massively large settings where people around the world, not just around the country, are convening and where people are mixing in real dense spaces,” Newsom told KTTV.

“Otherwise we’ll make guidance, recommendations, but no mandates and no restrictions in businesses large and small.” Is that all crystal clear? I’ll leave that for you to decide.





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