A slew of cities and schools are ditching mask mandates this week. But the fate of one big mandate is still up in air
Across the country, more governors are letting go of mask rules this week — including in states that have long held on to school mask mandates.
On Monday, Illinois lifted its mask mandate for restaurants, bars, gyms and stores. And Chicago ended its proof-of-vaccination requirement.
“I would still recommend that if you are in indoor spaces, especially those that are crowded, that you put on a mask,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin of the Cook County Department of Health.
In Massachusetts, a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools ends Monday. A similar mask mandate in Connecticut also ends Monday, and local school districts will be able to decide whether to require masks.
Starting Tuesday, Washington, DC will no longer require masks indoors. But Mayor Muriel Bowser said individual businesses still have the option of requiring masks or mandating vaccinations.
“If we see no unforeseen spikes and our numbers continue to show a low level of risk, New York City will remove the indoor mask mandate for public school children, effective next Monday, March 7,” NYC Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement Sunday.
The mayor said he also plans to lift the city’s proof-of-vaccination requirement for indoor venues starting March 7, barring an unexpected spike in Covid-19 numbers this week.
“But even as some jurisdictions lift masking requirements, we must grapple with the fact that millions of people in the U.S. are immunocompromised, more susceptible to severe COVID outcomes, or still too young to be eligible for the vaccine,” said Dr. Gerald Harmon, president of the American Medical Association.
“In light of those facts, I personally will continue to wear a mask in most indoor public settings, and I urge all Americans to consider doing the same, especially in places like pharmacies, grocery stores, on public transportation — locations all of us, regardless of vaccination status or risk factors, must visit regularly.”
What the new CDC guidelines say
The CDC released new metrics Friday to help determine whether Americans should wear face masks indoors.
Previously, indoor masking was recommended for those living in areas with “high” or “substantial” transmission of Covid-19 cases. That meant most Americans lived in countries where indoor masking was recommended.
But the new guidance includes two new metrics: hospital admissions and hospital capacity. As of Friday, most Americans lived in area where healthy adults didn’t have to wear masks anymore.
Of the 10 most populous counties, Los Angeles County and San Diego County were the only two where indoor masking is still recommended for everyone.
Six states had no residents living in a county where the CDC still recommends universal indoor masking: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
But several states had more than 75% of residents living in a county considered to have a “high” community level: Kentucky, West Virginia, Maine and Montana.
Transportation mandate is still up in the air
While mask mandates disappear in more states, that doesn’t mean Americans can ditch masks entirely, the president of the American Medical Association said.
“Although masks may no longer be required indoors in many parts of the U.S., we know that wearing a well-fitted mask is an effective way to protect ourselves and our communities, including the most vulnerable, from COVID-19 — particularly in indoor settings when physical distancing is not possible,” Harmon said.
CNN’s Virginia Langmaid, Deidre McPhillips, Elizabeth Cohen and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.