- As coronavirus cases continue to drop, multiple states have ended statewide or school mask mandates.
- Officials in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, and several other states announced plans to end indoor mask mandates in the coming weeks.
- Some public health officials think that any decision about ending mask policies should take into account what’s happening at the local level.
As the Omicron wave begins to weaken in many parts of the country, officials in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, and several other states have announced plans to end indoor mask mandates in the coming weeks.
Even Nevada, which had a data-driven mask policy tied to federal guidance, dropped its mask mandate, effective immediately.
Some states, such as Massachusetts and New Jersey, will be dropping school mask mandates.
Many of these states had more strict mask rules. But some states never had a mask mandate during the pandemic, with Florida, Texas, and a few others also actively banning local mandates.
Some public health officials think that any decision about ending mask policies should take into account what’s happening at the local level.
“As we have seen throughout the pandemic, new [coronavirus] cases and test positivity rates vary significantly from region to region, as do vaccination and booster rates,” said Dr. Tammy Lundstrom, an infectious disease specialist and chief medical officer at Trinity Health. “Decisions to ease restrictions should be based on determinations of these local factors.”
Other experts have called for decisions about mask policies — now and going forward — to be linked to data such as levels of community transmission, vaccination rates, hospital capacity, and coronavirus variants that are circulating.
“I think it is misguided to drop [mask] policies in response to political pressure without a policy framework to guide decisions moving forward,” said Anne Sosin, MPH, a policy fellow at Dartmouth College’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose guidance Nevada used for its now-expired mask policy, has not yet changed its position on masks.
CDC director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said on Feb. 9 that the agency was looking at updating its recommendations on masking, but its current guidance “meets the moment that we’re in.”
“Our hospitalizations are still high, our death rates are still high,” she said during a White House COVID-19 response team media briefing. “So … as we are encouraged by the current trends, we are not there yet.”
While coronavirus cases continue to decline in most parts of the country, the overall daily average cases are still around the peak seen last January, according to The New York Times COVID tracker.
In addition, the daily average for hospitalizations exceeds 103,000, and the average daily deaths exceed 2,500.
It will take another couple of weeks to know the impact that the ending of mask mandates has on coronavirus cases.
The CDC still advisesTrusted Source people 2 years and older who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines to wear a mask while indoors in public.
In addition, the agency says people who are up to date should wear a mask indoors in public in areas with substantial or high transmission — which CDC data shows is most of the country right now.
“Up to date” with the COVID-19 vaccine means having both the primary series and booster doseTrusted Source, if eligible.
Many Americans are not.
About half of Americans eligible for a booster have not received it yet, according to the CDC. And about 30 percent of Americans 5 years and older have not finished their primary series.
In schools, the agencyTrusted Source and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend universal indoor masking for those 2 years and older, regardless of vaccination status.