States that have DROPPED masks this week
California – On February 15, vaccinated residents will no longer have to wear masks in public indoor settings. Masks will still be required in schools.
Connecticut – On February 28, masks will no longer be required in schools
Delaware – On February 11, a mask mandate for all indoor public places except schools will end. The mandate for schools will be lifted on March 31
Illinois – On February 28, a mask mandate for all indoor public places will be lifted. Masks will still be required in schools
Massachusetts – On February 28, masks will no longer be required in schools
Nevada – On February 10, the state’s public and school mask mandate was lifted
New Jersey – On March 7, masks will no longer be required in schools
New York – On February 10, the state’s mask mandate for indoor public places as lifted. Masks are still required in schools
Oregon – On March 31, the state plans to allow its indoor mask mandate to expire, which includes schools
Rhode Island – On February 11, the state’s indoor mask mandate expires. Masks will no longer be required in schools starting March 4.
Despite federal officials clinging to masks, more and more blue states are starting to drop face coverings as daily cases drop nationwide and the country prepares a ‘return to normal’.
Masks in schools have been the most controversial of all pandemic-related policies. Parents are saying that it hurts their ability to socialize and forcing children to wear a face covering all day in class is uncomfortable. Children face little risk from the virus as well, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that minors make up less than 0.1 percent of U.S. Covid deaths.
Dr Scott Gottlieb, former chief of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and current board member at Pfizer, told CNBC’s Squawk Box that this is the time for governors to lift controversial school mask mandates and return schools back to normal.
‘I don’t think it’s imprudent that governors lean forward, anticipating that conditions are going to continue to improve, recognizing that people are frayed,’ he said.
‘We have a narrow window of opportunity to restore some sense of normalcy to the schools.’
On Wednesday, a slew of blue states in the northeast chose to drop masks in schools. Connecticut Gov Ned Lamont, whose state made the choice alongside New Jersey, Delaware and Massachusetts, told Squawk Box on Thursday that it was a joint decision.
We worked on this together as Governors throughout the region. We thought this is a good time,’ Lamont said.
On Thursday afternoon, Nevada joined the growing list of blue states to ditch masks, with Gov Steve Sisolak lifting the mandate effective immediately.
Federal leaders have been hesitant to change guidelines, though. Earlier this week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky affirmed that her agency still supports universal masking in schools and for people to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
‘We owe it to our children to make sure that they can safely stay in school,’ she told WYPR this week.
‘Right now, that includes masking. We’ve seen outbreaks that have occurred in communities where students were not masked in schools and had to close. … And much of our guidance is based on the amount of community transmission.’
President Joe Biden (pictured), told NBC last night that he stands by the CDC’s decision to keep guidelines recommending masks is schools and in other indoor public places despite a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks
Pictured: Joe Biden wears a mask outdoors, where risk of Covid transmission is very low, and despite not being near others
President Joe Biden said Thursday night that he stands by the CDC’s decision to leave mask guidance in place.
‘I’ve committed that I would follow the science as put forward by the CDC and federal people and I think it’s probably premature, but it’s, you know, it’s a tough call,’ he told NBC’s Lester Holt in a sit-down interview.
Massive case declines across the U.S. and in many states is fueling these calls to lift mask mandates and move towards a ‘return to normal’.
Daily cases in the U.S. are down 40 percent over the past week, from 356,722 per day to 207,539. It is even a further fall from the 800,000 cases per day peak the country reached in mid-January. Every one of the 50 U.S. states is recording a decline in cases over the past two weeks, with 44 having cases slash in half over the last fortnight.
‘This wave has run its course,’ Gottlieb said of the current case trajectory.
‘There’s probably nothing they’re going to measure that’s going to change this trajectory. If people unmask a little early and start to take a little more risks, they socialize more, perhaps cases wont continue to decline as rapidly as they have been declining. But they’re gonna continue to come down.’
He also notes that in some places like New York and New Jersey, cases have fallen so rapidly in recent weeks that
Deaths, which lag behind cases have flattened as well, another sign that this current Covid wave is starting to come to an end. The nation is averaging 2,547 deaths per day, up four percent over the past week and stating in the 2,400 to 2,600 range it has remained in over the past month.
Added pressure is coming from overseas as well. Last month, the UK lifted all pandemic-related restrictions as cases continue to plummet in the nation. America’s greatest foreign ally often precedes the U.S. by a few weeks during the pandemic, and it is rare that the European nation has less-strict Covid guidelines than its peer across the pond.
In the UK, masks in schools, work from home orders, vaccine passports and requirements to test negative before travelling into the country have been lifted. As cases continue to fall, now under 70,000 per day after peaking at 180,000 early last month, some are even clamoring to stop daily reporting of Covid cases and deaths in the country.
Other European countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland have also either lifted restrictions or laid out plans to do so in recent weeks.
As of Friday morning, Covid cases are trending downwards in all 50 states, and have slashed in half over the past two weeks in 44 states.
Oklahoma, once one of the final states to be recording an increase in Covid cases last month, is now recording the largest decline in cases of any state in America. The Sooner state has recorded an 81 percent drop in cases over the past two weeks.
Midwestern, plains and west coast states that suffered massive spikes in cases caused by Omicron after states along the east coast are now starting to experience the same sharp declines in cases seen along the east coast as well.
Every state west of the Mississippi river – sans Alaska and Montana – is recording a drop in Covid cases of 60 percent or more over the past two weeks. Alaska and Montana are both recording sharp declines of over 40 percent as well.
Alaska remains the national leader in Covid infection rate. The state 1,600 miles from the U.S. mainland is recording 177 new daily cases per every 100,000 residents.
Only eight U.S. states are above the 100 per every 100,000 mark, and all are states with low vaccination rates in the south or great plains: Mississippi (146 cases per 100,000 residents; 50 percent vaccination rate), Montana (129; 55), West Virginia (124; 56), Tennessee (123; 53), Kentucky (106; 56), Idaho (104; 53), North Dakota (102; 54).
States with lower vaccination rates are leading the nation in mortality rate as well. All but one of the eight states recording more than one daily Covid death per every 100,000 residents.
Mississippi (1.47 daily deaths per 100,000 residents; 50 percent vaccination rate), Virginia (1.41; 71), Ohio (1.29; 57), Arizona (1.16; 59), Kansas (1.16; 59), West Virginia (1.09; 56), South Carolina (1.09; 55) and Nevada (1.05; 59).