More states, cities lift mask mandates, COVID-19 restrictions as cases fall

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Nearly a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) loosened mask guidance, city and state officials have continued to lift COVID-19 restrictions. 

In New York, school districts made wearing face coverings optional for students and staff beginning Wednesday, as the statewide mask mandate came to an end. 


Masks are still required for 10 days following a COVID-19 infection and are recommended for 10 days for those who have been exposed to an individual who has been infected. 

In New York City, an indoor mask mandate is expected to be lifted on Monday and Mayor Eric Adams has said he plans to make a final decision on Friday. 

The state’s health department said schools should continue to encourage social distancing, vaccines and testing.

A grocer wearing a protective mask as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus stocks papers at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.
( AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Maine’s state government said Wednesday it would rescind a recommendation for universal masking in schools and child care facilities. 

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Maine Department of Education said they would consider making mask use optional in those settings beginning on March 9. 

Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont also relaxed school masking rules this week and New Jersey’s statewide school mask mandate ends on March 7.

In nearby Pennsylvania, Philadelphia health officials announced Wednesday that the city was lifting its indoor mask mandate. 

Officials expect to lift the shoo masking rules there on March 9. 

To the South, the city health director for New Orleans, Louisiana, said Wednesday that the Big Easy is lifting its indoor mask mandate now that the annual Carnival season is over. 


The mask mandate ended Thursday morning and a requirement for customers to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for entry into bars, restaurants or other venues is slated to end on March 21 – should hospitalization rates remain stable.

With new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations falling across the country, the CDC’s new guidelines included new county-by-county color designations to indicate whether residents should wear masks or not. 

Based on its risk map, more than 70% of the U.S. population is in counties where the coronavirus is posing a low or medium threat to hospitals.

The agency is still advising people, including schoolchildren, wear masks where the risk of COVID-19 is high, or about 37% of U.S. counties. 

The Krewe of Proteus rolls on the Uptown route with the theme "Divine Tricksters" in New Orleans on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.

The Krewe of Proteus rolls on the Uptown route with the theme “Divine Tricksters” in New Orleans on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.
(Brett Duke/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)

The new recommendations do not change the requirement to wear masks on public transportation and indoors in airports, train stations and bus stations.

Additionally, the guidelines for other indoor spaces aren’t binding, meaning cities and institutions even in areas of low risk may set their own rules. 

“Anybody is certainly welcome to wear a mask at any time if they feel safer wearing a mask,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters last week. “We want to make sure our hospitals are OK and people are not coming in with severe disease. … Anyone can go to the CDC website, find out the volume of disease in their community and make that decision.”

On Wednesday, the White House released a new pandemic plan laying out a “roadmap” to fight COVID-19 in the future. 


In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Biden said the U.S. is moving in a positive direction but has no intention of just living with COVID-19. 

“Tonight, I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines. It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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