Mask mandates are lifting in many states, but not everywhere
By Alyssa Lukpat
America’s patchwork of COVID restrictions has begun to look more like a crazy quilt.
Since a parade of blue-state governors began loosening restrictions last week in response to rapidly declining caseloads, more states and cities have since followed suit. But officials in some cities and school districts are keeping mandates in place, with rules varying county by county in some cases.
In California, state health authorities said Monday that while some pandemic restrictions would be lifted, schoolchildren would still be required to wear masks for at least another two weeks. And a mask mandate remains in effect in Los Angeles County.
In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, is expected to sign a bill that would make wearing masks in schools voluntary and require schools to offer in-person instruction.
Mask mandates in Rhode Island, Delaware and Nevada ended last week.
Restrictions are loosening despite the United States reporting about 2,400 deaths each day — more than at any point of the pandemic except last winter — and more than 150,000 new cases.
While the movement to ease restrictions began in swing states like Colorado, Pennsylvania and Michigan, its spread to some of the bluest states reflects a country entering a new political phase in the nearly two-year pandemic. Many indoor mask requirements have evolved, but vaccine mandates have largely remained unchanged.
Federal rules still require masks on all forms of public transportation and in transportation hubs, including in subway stations, bus terminals and airports, at least until March 18.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said that it was too soon for Americans to take their masks off in indoor public places.
“Our hospitalizations are still high, our death rates are still high,” she said during a news briefing last week. “So, as we work toward that and as we are encouraged by the current trends, we are not there yet.”
As of Tuesday night, the authorities in over a dozen states and Washington, D.C., have changed their mask mandates in the past few weeks, with many of those decisions coming in the past several days.
Here’s a look at where other mandates have and haven’t changed:
— In Connecticut, the statewide mask mandate will end on Feb. 28, and that extends to schoolchildren. Masks will still be required in New Haven.
— Masks will no longer be required indoors in Illinois starting on Feb. 28. On Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago told reporters that the city’s indoor mask requirement would remain in place until caseloads decline.
— In Massachusetts, a statewide school mask mandate will be lifted on Feb. 28. Mayor Michelle Wu of Boston said the next day that public school students there will still be required to wear masks. The Archdiocese of Boston won’t require its students to wear masks.
— Beginning the second week of March, New Jersey will stop requiring students and school employees to wear masks. The Camden City School District will still require masks.
— New York state will on Wednesday end its requirement that people entering business must wear masks or show proof of full vaccination. In New York City, masks are still required at schools and health care facilities. Owners of stores, restaurants, theaters or other public spaces can still require masks.
— Oregon’s indoor mask mandate, which includes schools, was set to be lifted by March 31.
— In Washington, D.C., starting Tuesday people will no longer have to show proof of vaccination before entering many businesses. On March 1, the city will end its indoor mask mandate in many settings, but not others, including schools.