More states lifting mask mandates

Coronavirus

(NewsNation Now) — As COVID-19 metrics have improved amid a decline in omicron variant-fueled cases, several states have announced plans to lift statewide indoor mask mandates.

Last week, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the state will end a COVID-19 mask mandate requiring face coverings in most indoor public settings.

“Given the declining cases, given the declining hospitalizations, that is why we feel comfortable to lift this,” Hochul said.

There are several states where indoor mask mandates were enforced in public places statewide regardless of one’s vaccination status. With the changing rules, the responsibility to enact mask mandates is shifting to local leaders and school boards — who are caught in the middle of one of the most divisive issues of the pandemic.

COVID numbers remain high in most of the United States, but the number of new cases and hospitalizations is trending down. And the Food and Drug Administration has just authorized a new monoclonal antibody treatment that has proven effective against the omicron variant.

Here are the states lifting mask mandates:

California: to be lifted Tuesday
Delaware: lifted Friday
Hawaii: enforced
Illinois: to be lifted Feb. 28
Nevada: enforced
New Mexico: enforced
New York: lifted Thursday
Oregon: to be lifted next month
Rhode Island: lifted last week
Washington: enforced

Here’s what we know about each state’s rules:

California

California officials announced plans to do away with its statewide indoor mask requirement for vaccinated people Tuesday.

After Tuesday, unvaccinated people still will be required to be masked indoors, and everyone — vaccinated or not — will have to wear masks in higher-risk areas, 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.

Delaware

Gov. John Carney signed an order lifting Delaware’s universal indoor mask mandate effective at 8 a.m. last Thursday.

Hawaii

Gov. David Ige said he will not mandate booster shots for travelers coming to the islands but will keep his indoor mask mandate for public places.

Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday he aims to lift the statewide mask mandate, with certain exceptions, by Feb. 28.

Pritzker said masks will no longer be required to enter restaurants, grocery stores or other indoor spaces. 

Nevada

Gov. Steve Sisolak said in January Nevada’s mask mandate will stay in place.

Every county in Nevada currently requires masks no matter one’s vaccination status due to the high transmission of COVID-19 through the state, officials said.

“I’m in the middle of a surge,” Sisolak said. “It’s certainly not a time that we’re going to reduce any of the protocols that we have in place.”

New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Health renewed COVID-19 public health orders in February 2022, including a mandate to wear masks in public spaces regardless of vaccination status.

The order will remain in effect through at least March 4.

New York

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the state will end a COVID-19 mask mandate requiring face coverings in most indoor public settings effective last Thursday

The mandate requiring face coverings in most indoor public settings, such as grocery stores, shops and offices, was set to expire Thursday unless her administration extended it.

Hochul said infection rates have since declined to a level where it is safe to rescind the broad masking order.

Oregon

Gov. Kate Brown announced a decision to lift Oregon’s statewide indoor mask mandate no later than March 31.

State health officials will weigh lifting the mask mandate earlier than expected if the hospitalizations decline to that level more quickly than expected.

Rhode Island

Gov. Dan McKee announced last Wednesday thatRhode Island would remove its indoor vax-or-mask mandate later in the week.

Washington

Gov. Jay Inslee is optimistic that dropping the statewide mask mandate could happen but it is currently enforced in Washington.

“We are continuing to track cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” he wrote in a statement. “We are optimistic that these numbers will continue to decline in a way that will let us revisit the mask requirements in the near future.”

SCHOOLS

The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon last week announced plans to lift mandates in schools by the end of February or March. State leaders added Massachusetts to the list last Wednesday.

Some school officials around the country had welcomed the state-imposed mandates to spare them from having to make unpopular decisions, especially early in the pandemic. But many superintendents say they now have the tools to decide whether masks should be required, and they welcome the ability to adapt as needed.

In New York, Hochul has been saying she wants to see vaccination rates for children increase before she gets rid of a state requirement for masks in schools.

The systems follow Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s victory in November, when he pledged to make masking a choice. Brandon Michelle, running for Congress as a Republican from Loudoun County, Virginia, said he believes the pandemic could be turning kids into GOP voters.

“We have juniors and seniors that graduated over the last two years who are now going to be voters,” Michelle said on “On Balance with Leland Vittert” last Wednesday. “They are not going to forget that they’ve had proms, homecomings, senior days, all these life experiences that they that they cannot get back.”

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