(NEW YORK) — Officials in every U.S. state and jurisdiction have now ended, or announced an end, to their indoor universal masking requirements.
Over the last month, states from coast to coast have moved to end mask mandates as coronavirus cases have plummeted. By the end of March, there will be no more statewide or school mask mandates in effect.
Although some districts may opt to still mandate mask use, many schools have already decided to drop the requirement.
On Tuesday, Hawaii, the nation’s lone indoor mask holdout, became the last state to end its universal mask mandate, effective March 25 at 11:59 p.m.
“We’re committed to moving the state forward and learning to live with COVID,” Gov. David Ige said during a press conference.
Although the Hawaii Department of Education wrote in a press release that face coverings will still be required indoors in Hawaii schools, State Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble later clarified in a press conference that the department’s recommendations are “guidance” for schools to take into consideration, as they create their own policies and requirements.
Officials in Washington, D.C., also announced on Tuesday that they are recommending that most people no longer wear masks indoors or outdoors at educational facilities, unless COVID-19 community levels are high.
If COVID-19 community levels are medium, people who are immunocompromised or at higher risk for severe COVID-19 are encouraged to wear a mask, or respirator, indoors, the new guidance states.
However, for many students, the change will not go into effect immediately, as D.C. public school officials said on Tuesday that they are still considering next steps.
“For the immediate future, masks are still required indoors at all DC Public Schools for students, staff, and visitors. We will engage our union partners on next steps and continue to communicate with the DCPS community about any decisions that are made,” Lewis Ferebee, chancellor of D.C. public schools, wrote in a tweet following the announcement.
The moves came shortly after Puerto Rico announced that it too would drop its universal requirement on Monday.
In addition, on March 11, Oregon and Washington will end their universal and school mask mandates, while California will also drop its school mask requirement.
The mass ending of mask requirements comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its recommendations for mask use and unveiled their new plan for determining COVID-19 risk in communities.
Under the new risk levels, approximately 90% of the U.S. population now lives in areas deemed to have low or medium threats to their local hospitals, and thus can stop wearing masks.
“Americans in most of the country can now be mask-free,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said in a briefing on the plan last week.
Many health officials have cautioned, however, that should there be a viral resurgence, mask requirements may have to return.
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