These States Are About to Drop School Mask Mandates
New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, California, and Oregon have just announced plans to lift their school mask mandates in the next few weeks. The decision comes after U.S. COVID-19 cases declined by 53.1% since the mid-January peak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Balancing public health with getting back to some semblance of normalcy is not easy. But we can responsibly take this step due to declining COVID numbers and growth in vaccinations,” New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said on Twitter when announcing that New Jersey would remove its school mask mandate on March 7. While the mandate is being eased across these states, it’s to be expected that many people will continue to wear face coverings for the protection of themselves and others. Murphy also addressed this on Twitter, noting that after March 7, it will come down to choice. “We will not tolerate anyone being put down by exercising their choice to mask up,” Murphy said.
Oregon was more cautious in its proposed deadline, with mask requirements in public indoor spaces, including schools, remaining firmly in place until March 31. As for Delaware, the statewide mask requirement for indoor public settings lifts on February 11, while the mask requirement in schools and childcare establishments lifts on March 31. “I want to be clear about this point: COVID is still circulating in our communities. The virus still poses a risk of serious illness, particularly among those who are not up-to-date on their vaccinations,” Delaware governor John Carney said in a Twitter thread. “For all the parents out there—the best way to keep your child in school learning, and to prevent them from getting sick, is to get them vaccinated. It’s that simple.” Connecticut’s mask mandate will come to an end on February 28. In California, indoor masking will no longer be mandated for vaccinated people. This will come into effect from February 16, with some locations still requiring face coverings, including aged-care facilities, hospitals, and public transportation.
Since April 3, 2020, when the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the CDC first recommended that people wear a face covering to minimize the spread of COVID-19, mask recommendations and mandates have ignited public debate, and this was no exception when it came to schools. The movement for states to lift school mask mandates comes after President Joe Biden met with a number of U.S. governors at the White House last Monday. “We asked the president to help give us clear guidelines on how we can return to a great state of normality,” Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson said after the meeting.
This push to transition back to “normality” has been mirrored by the majority of the U.S. population, according to a recent survey. The Monmouth University survey found that 70% of Americans believe that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere and that it’s time to accept it and move on. “Americans’ worries about Covid haven’t gone away. It seems more to be a realization that we are not going to get this virus under control in a way that we thought was possible just last year,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. Just one-third of respondents were optimistic that the nation would be able to control the outbreak and have things return to normal before 2023. However, the survey was conducted by telephone between January 20 and January 24, 2022, with only 794 adults based in the U.S. There are definitely some who feel it is simply too soon to return to normality, in part because children under five have still not been allowed to be vaccinated. Some medical experts, such as Uché Blackstock, M.D., former associate professor of emergency medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, believe lifting school mask mandates is “premature.”