California, other states easing COVID restrictions

Coronavirus

Masks. (Credit: Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (NewsNation Now) —  Leaders in several states with Democratic governors announced Monday that they are easing COVID-19 restrictions, including lifting mask mandates, due to the rapid easing of the omicron surge.

California

California will end its indoor masking requirement for vaccinated people next week but masks still are the rule for schoolchildren, state health officials announced.

After Feb. 15, unvaccinated people still will be required to be masked indoors, and everyone — vaccinated or not — will have to wear masks in higher-risk areas including public transit and nursing homes and other congregate living facilities, officials said. Local governments can continue their own indoor masking requirements and last week, Los Angeles County’s health officials said they intend to keep theirs in place beyond the state deadline.

State officials also announced that Indoor “mega events” with more than 1,000 people will have to require vaccinations or negative tests for those attending and those who are unvaccinated will be required to wear masks. For outdoor events with more than 10,000 people, there is no vaccination requirement but masks or negative tests are recommended.

Those thresholds increase from the current 500 attendees for indoor and 5,000 attendees for outdoor events. The increased threshold comes after Sunday’s Super Bowl that will draw as many as 100,000 football fans to SoFi Stadium outside Los Angeles.

California also is lifting a requirement that people produce a negative coronavirus test before visiting hospitals and nursing homes, effective immediately.

Health officials said Monday that more changes to the state’s policies will be released in the coming week.

Oregon

Oregon’s statewide mask requirement for indoor public places will be lifted no later than the end of March, health officials announced Monday.

In addition, mask requirements for schools will be lifted March 31.

Education and health officials will meet in coming weeks to revise guidance to “ensure schools can continue operating safely and keep students in class” after the mask rule is lifted, said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state medical officer and epidemiologist.

“This will give (school officials) time to look at their community condition — vaccination rates and spread in their community — and decide if they want to implement a local mandate or requirement for schools,” Sidelinger said.

The end of March deadline for lifting statewide mask rules was selected using predictions by local health scientists that COVID-19 related hospitalizations will decrease to 400 or fewer by that time — a level that Oregon experienced before the omicron variant surge.

New Jersey

New Jersey will roll back its mask requirement in schools March 7.

Gov. Phil Murphy called the move “a huge step back to normalcy for our kids.”

He cited the “dramatic decline in our COVID numbers” in announcing the rollback. The omicron variant fueled a spike in infections over the holidays, but cases in the state are down 50% and hospitalizations dropped off by one-third since last week, he said.

“We are not — and I’ve said this many times — going to manage COVID to zero,” the governor said. “We have to learn how to live with COVID as we move from a pandemic to an endemic phase of this virus.”

Connecticut

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday that he is recommending the state end its mask mandate for schools and child care centers Feb. 28 and allow local officials and school administrators to decide for themselves if masks should be required.

Amid a decline in the state’s COVID-19 infection numbers, the Democrat said residents of the state now have the tools necessary to keep themselves safe amid a growing sense that Americans will need to find a way to coexist with the virus.

“What we got to figure out is, how we as a society, we as a state, learn to live with COVID, which hopefully has a diminishing impact upon our state and community for a long time to come.” Lamont said during a briefing with reporters. “And I think we’ve got the tools to do it. We’ve got the tools to keep ourselves safe. We’ve got the tools to keep our schools safe. That’s part of living with it.”

Delaware

Delaware Gov. John Carney said his state’s school mask mandate will run through March.

While the universal mask mandate will expire at 8 a.m. Friday, Carney on Monday temporarily extended the mask requirement in public and private K-12 schools and child care facilities to March 31.

Administration officials said the temporary extension will give parents time to get their children vaccinated before the expiration of the mask requirement. It will also allow local school administrators and school boards to consider their own mask requirements.

“We’re in a much better place than we were several weeks ago in the middle of the Omicron surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Carney said in a statement, while urging people to get vaccinated.

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