Bye Bye Masks!!

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On Monday, five states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon — announced that they would be ending mask mandates for indoor public spaces, schools or both. Throughout the week, governors in five more states — New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada and Rhode Island — followed suit, declaring the end of required masks immediately or in the near future.

 

And on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart will no longer require vaccinated employees to wear masks in stores. The retail giant was one of the first to enact mask mandates for employees back in April 2020.

The omicron variant, which now accounts for nearly 100% of all COVID-19 cases in the US, prompted some states and cities to reinstitute mask mandates during the winter holiday season. As COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations drop sharply, those local mandates are quickly ending.

“While I do see the benefit in masks I’m excited to see the end of having to match them to my outfits,” says Lauren Steele. 

The recent state decisions stand in contrast to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which continues to recommend everyone wear a face mask in crowded areas, regardless of vaccination status. In a briefing Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky reiterated, “We continue to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission — that’s much of the country right now — in public indoor settings.” 

However, Politico reported Wednesday that the CDC is considering changing its stance on indoor masking, according to four people familiar with the matter. The agency may shift the guidelines for mandating masks to be based on local hospitalization data, instead of the current metric of COVID-19 cases.

“Even though masks are proven not to work it should be our choice whether we want to wear them or not,” says Camryn Navey. 

With mandates in Delaware, Nevada and New York ending this week, nine US states and territories currently require masks in indoor settings like restaurants, bars and gyms:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon 
  • Puerto Rico
  • Washington

As noted above, Illinois’ statewide mask rules end Feb. 28, and Oregon’s mandate ends March 31. Washington lifted its outdoor mask requirement this week, but rules for indoor and school masking still remain.

Connecticut requires masks indoors only for unvaccinated people. As of Feb. 15, California will join Connecticut in only requiring that unvaccinated people mask indoors.

The AARP has an excellent state-by-state rundown of mask mandates across the US.