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More mask mandates are falling for schoolchildren in West Coast states this month, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have continued to plummet.
Millions of kids in California, Oregon and Washington will no longer be required to wear masks as part of new indoor mask policies announced Monday.
“With declining case rates and hospitalizations across the West, California, Oregon and Washington are moving together to update their masking guidance,” the governors of the three states wrote in a joint statement.
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Face coverings will now be strongly recommended at schools beginning March 12 and at most indoor places in California on Tuesday – regardless of coronavirus vaccination status.
In Washington and Oregon, all requirements will lift on March 12.
The decision on whether to follow state guidance will be left to school districts.
Delaware Gov. John Carney announced Monday that mask requirements for schools would end on Tuesday evening.
The governor also said vaccine or testing requirements for teachers and state employees were set to expire at 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday.
“There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about where we’re headed,” Carney said in a prepared statement. “Over the last month, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically, and we are clearly moving into a new phase of this pandemic.”
In Connecticut, Monday marked the first day of classes since the state ended its school mask mandate, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Sunday that the state’s masking requirements in schools would be lifted by March 2.
CDC LOOSENS COVID-19 INDOOR MASK GUIDANCE, INCLUDING FOR SCHOOLS
New Jersey, Massachusetts and other states have recently made similar adjustments to restrictions for schools.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last month that the statewide school mask mandate would be lifted Monday – though the nation’s third-largest district in Chicago will continue to require masks to “maintain health and safety measures.”
The city also removed its mask mandate, as well as a requirement that people show proof of vaccination at places like restaurants.
Much of the country has made similar moves to relax pandemic restrictions and these latest actions follow an update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which eased indoor mask guidance last week.
According to the agency, people can stop wearing masks if they live in counties where COVID-19 poses a low or medium threat to hospitals – accounting for more than 70% of the U.S. population.
The CDC still advises people, including schoolchildren, to wear masks where the risk of COVID-19 is high.
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Federal mask mandates still apply in high-risk indoor settings – like on public transportation and in transportation hubs – and those who experience symptoms or test positive for the virus should still wear masks.
However, cities and institutions may set their own rules, as the guidelines for indoor spaces are not binding.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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