From Connecticut to California, officials announce the easing of mask orders
By Lola Fadulu
Connecticut will permit students and staff members to stop wearing masks in schools by no later than Feb. 28, after Gov. Ned Lamont recommended Monday that the statewide mask mandate end on that date.
His remarks came after a move by New Jersey officials earlier Monday to lift that state’s mask mandate for schools.
The governors of Delaware and Oregon also made announcements Monday about relaxing mask mandates at the end of March. And California officials said that state’s universal mask mandate for indoor public places would be lifted next week.
“Now is the time for us to say, the statewide mask mandate is no longer at our level,” Lamont said. “Each and every mayor, each and every superintendent can make that call themselves. I recommend the date Feb. 28.”
Connecticut’s mask mandate for schools will expire Feb. 15 unless the legislature agrees to extend the governor’s pandemic emergency powers. One of those powers allows officials from the Department of Education and the Department of Public Health to decide rules around masks.
Lamont last month asked the legislature to extend some of the orders he issued using his emergency powers, but no decision has been made.
If the legislature extends the powers, he said, “we would have the discretion to make the change we’re talking about, which is ending the mask mandate in schools and our day care facilities.”
Lamont decided against letting the mandate end next week so that officials could continue monitoring cases if there is another spike in cases. He also wanted the change to occur after winter break so that schools could better prepare.
Coronavirus metrics in New Jersey have been on the decline, too, prompting Gov. Philip Murphy to announce Monday that he would eliminate the state’s mask mandate for students and school employees. The new policy will take effect the second week of March.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said last week that officials were “striving” to remove mask mandates in schools but that vaccination rates for younger children needed to rise.
“The more children we have vaccinated, the safer they’ll be when they go to school,” Hochul said. “We’re just not there yet.”
In an appearance Monday in Kingston, New York, she said that she was still monitoring the situation and noted that New Jersey’s mandate would not be lifted for another month.
“I’m gathering data,” Hochul said. “We are trending in a very, very good direction.”
In California, the most recent mask mandate, which required masks in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status, was put in place in mid-December, amid uncertainty around the omicron variant, and was set to remain until Jan. 15 at least. As case counts exploded, stretching essential workforces, the state extended the mandate until Feb. 15, which is when it will expire.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf rescinded his state’s mask mandate for schools last month.
Delaware Gov. John Carney on Monday extended his state’s school mask mandate through March 31, saying that would give parents time to get younger children vaccinated. At the same time, Carney announced that the state’s mask mandate for businesses and workplaces would expire Friday.
Masks protect both the wearer from infection and those nearby from being infected. People who reported always wearing a mask indoors in public were less likely to test positive for the virus, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two September CDC studies found that masks help prevent in-school transmission. The agency recommends that children 2 and older and all adults wear masks at school and in day care.
But many prominent doctors have begun to question the value of requiring students to wear masks as new virus cases decline across the country. They cite the mental health strain that children have faced during the pandemic, and the educational value of seeing full faces.