You Now Don't Have to Wear a Mask in These States
Ever since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in 2020, mask-wearing has been one of the most effective ways of protecting ourselves and others from the virus. However, with the Omicron variant declining nationwide, a number of states have announced they are lifting their mask mandates. Some experts agree the timing is right but today, CDC director Rochelle Walensky had this word of caution: "Things are going in the right direction, and with that we will continue to evaluate the science. But right now we still have about 290,000 cases every single day and our hospitalization rates now are higher than they even were at the peak of our Delta surge," she said in an interview with Maryland radio station WYPR. "We have and continue to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission ― that is essentially everywhere in the country in public indoor settings." That said, here are the states where masks are no longer required. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs COVID is Hurting You—Even After a Negative Test.
New York State
New York State is lifting indoor mask mandates and vaccination requirements—but city and school mandates remain in place, says Governor Kathy Hochul. "We saw it coming, it happened, we hit our peak on January 7, but now we've noticed a 93% drop in cases," Hochul says. "That is exactly what we've been waiting for." People in New York City will still need to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and other indoor venues. "We are continuing to follow the science and the guidance of public health professionals to keep New Yorkers safe," said Fabien Levy, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams. "We encourage all New Yorkers to continue to wear high-quality masks when indoors or in crowded spaces and to get vaccinated and boosted to stop the spread."
New Jersey is lifting the mask mandate for schools, for the first time since the start of the pandemic. "This is not a declaration of victory as much as an acknowledgment that we can responsibly live with this thing," says Gov. Philip D. Murphy. "The overwhelming sentiment on both sides of the aisle is we want to get to a place where we can live with this thing in as normal a fashion as possible."
Rhode Island is lifting mask and vaccination requirements for indoor venues, but the school mask mandate will remain until March 4 to give schools time to plan ahead. "As a state and a country we have to learn how to manage COVID as we move from a pandemic to an endemic stage of the virus," Gov. Dan McKee says. "It's all about having flexibility to adapt and emphasizing personal responsibility."
Massachusetts (which does not have a state-wide mandate) is lifting mask requirements for schools starting February 28. "Given the extremely low risk to young people, the widespread availability and the proven effectiveness of vaccines, and the distribution of accurate test protocols, and tests, it's time to give our kids a sense of normalcy and lift the mask mandate on a statewide basis for schools," says Gov. Charlie Baker.
Connecticut is also dropping their mask requirements for schools starting February 28. "Now is the time for us to say, the statewide mask mandate is no longer at our level," Gov. Ted Lamont says. "Each and every mayor, each and every superintendent can make that call themselves. I recommend the date Feb. 28."
California is lifting the indoor mask mandate on February 15—but only for vaccinated people. "CA's case rate has decreased by 65% since our Omicron peak," tweeted Gov. Gavin Newsom. "Our hospitalizations have stabilized across the state. Our statewide indoor mask requirement will expire on 2/15. Unvaccinated people will still need to wear masks indoors. Get vaccinated. Get boosted." State officials have not yet announced what will happen with the mask mandate for schools.
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to live your healthiest life, don't miss this life-saving advice I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You Have Cancer.