States

States Are Dropping School Mask Requirements. Here’s the Latest and What’s Ahead

By Stacey Decker & Holly Peele — February 28, 2022 2 min read
Students wearing masks leave the New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math (NEST+m) school in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, Dec. 21, 2021, in New York.
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At one point this school year, 18 states required masks in school. As of today, it’s nine. By the end of this week, only five states and the District of Columbia will still mandate universal masking in schools. (That’s assuming there are no other developments.)

In February, as the wave of COVID-19 infections related to the omicron variant began to subside, officials in states that required masks began announcing plans to end them. These announcements accelerated after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released relaxed masking guidelines last Friday.

When states get rid of their mask policies, it puts the onus on district leaders to decide whether or not to require students and staff to mask up. In some states, leaders don’t have that option, because of bans in place that prevent them from instituting universal mask requirements.

Another potential complication: In some places, there are ongoing court cases that could impact the state’s policy.

Education Week has been monitoring state-level mask policies this school year. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening now and in the weeks ahead:

The latest

  • On Friday, the CDC relaxed its mask guidance. Now, universal masking in public settings, including schools, is only recommended in areas with high risk of serious illness or strained health-care resources.
  • Since the release of the new CDC guidance:
    • School mask requirements in Connecticut and Massachusetts were lifted on Monday, as scheduled.
    • The governors of Delaware, Illinois, and New York announced their mask mandates will end this week. (Illinois’ requirement, however, had already been put on hold by a judge.)
    • The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington issued a joint announcement that mask requirements would end in their states effective March 12.

What’s ahead

  • On Tuesday, March 1, school mask mandates in Maryland will be lifted.
  • Also on Tuesday, a ban on school mask mandates in Virginia goes into effect. (Worth noting: Virginia does have counties that fall into the CDC’s high-risk-level category, as do the four other states that currently ban districts from requiring masks.)
  • Also on Tuesday, Delaware’s mask mandate will lift at 6 p.m.
  • On Wednesday, New York’s requirement will be lifted.
  • On Friday, Rhode Island’s mandate will expire.
  • On March 7, New Jersey‘s requirement will be lifted.
  • On March 12, mask requirements will end in California, Oregon, and Washington.
  • Only one state, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia have yet to set an end date for their school mask requirements.

Want to know your state’s policy? Education Week is tracking state policies on masking in school here.

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