Despite the fact that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommend the use of masks inside schools, regardless of vaccination rates, the governors of the States of Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon announced Monday that they are already devising plans to lift state requirements for the use of masks in schools, something that is expected to happen by the end of this month or early March. The governors of these four states cite the rapidly declining rise in omicron cases as an incentive to lift the ban.
In response to relaxation of restrictions by some states, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated the Biden Administration’s support for the CDC’s guidance for masks in schools, but said the policy will be evaluated. “continually” based on “science and data”.
In turn, California announced plans to end its indoor mask requirement for vaccinated people next week. However, masks will continue to be mandatory for schoolchildren in the country’s most populous state. Residents will also not be exempt from removing their face coverings in places such as hospitals and nursing homes, or on board public transportation. In addition, the city of Los Angeles expects the visit of thousands of American football fans to attend the famous Super Bowl that is played this Sunday, the 13th.
The decisions made in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon were announced as state and local governments continue to study which rules to leave in place and which to scrap, given the growing sense among citizens that the virus will never go away and that Americans must find a way to live with it.
Connecticut’s governor said he will recommend removing his state’s mandate for masks in schools later this month. New Jersey will end the mandate on March 7. Oregon’s mask requirement for all indoor public places, including classrooms, will be lifted no later than March 31. The same date will be referenced in Delaware schools.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy called the move “a big step back to normalcy for kids.” These last four states are among a dozen that ask for the mandatory use of masks in schools. New Jersey’s requirement has been in place since in-person classes resumed in September 2020. Murphy cited the “dramatic decline” in Covid-19 numbers when announcing the decision. The omicron variant fueled a spike in infections over the holidays, but cases in the state are down 50% and hospitalizations are down a third from last week, he said. “We are not going, and I have said it many times, to achieve covid zero,” said the governor. “We have to learn to live with covid as we move from a pandemic to an endemic phase of this virus.”
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The debate about masks in schools is yet another of the many issues that have polarized much of the United States. The new governor of Virginia, for example, has fully entered the controversy, since as soon as he took office fulfilled his campaign promise and announced the lifting of the ban on the mandatory use of masks in schools. He also declared that he will modify other policies established by the covid-19 pandemic after taking office on January 15.
At the press conference this past Monday, Jen Psaki insisted that the universal use of masks in schools “still remains” the recommendation of the Biden Administration, but did not criticize the States for eliminating the requirement. The United States begins to remove the mask.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.