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Where Do You Still Need to Wear a Mask in the U.S.?

States are dropping mask mandates.

The U.S. witnessed an onslaught of COVID-19 infections with the Omicron variant. Advisories changed and defenses went up, but the tide seems to be turning. In a press briefing, the White House also shared that 216 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. The caseload in the U.S. is down from a million cases per day in January to less than 60,000 now. The numbers are looking good, so, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is responding to this new development with another change in its masking guidelines.

More than 70% of Americans can now ditch their masks in indoor public spaces. There is a new metric to determine whether a community needs to take preventative measures, and the community levels (low, medium, or high) are being determined not just by caseloads but also by hospitalizations. You can check your county’s COVID-19 Community Level here.

End Dates Are Different

States are letting their mask mandates lapse, and schools are letting students unmask since the CDC “no longer recommends universal indoor mask wearing in K-12 schools and early education settings in areas with a low or medium COVID-19 Community Level.” 

Every state has different policies and end dates for mask mandates, so please check the latest rules before ditching your masks.

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California dropped its mask mandate in most indoor settings (not including emergency shelters, homeless shelters, and healthcare settings) and schools will be allowed to let students stay unmasked from March 11. New York’s mask mandate expired in February and schools will be allowed to go mask-free by March 7. New Mexico, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, D.C., Nevada, and Illinois have also stopped requiring masks indoors. In Washington, the mask mandates for the state and schools will be eliminated by March 21. Oregon, too, will be ending its mandate after March 12.

Note that Hawaii hasn’t decided to eliminate mask mandates, though it has relaxed entry requirements for domestic visitors. 

Masks at Amusement Parks

At most amusement parks in California and Florida, masks are only required for unvaccinated guests. Disneyland and Walt Disney World announced in February that they lifted the mask requirements for vaccinated people; those who are unvaccinated and over the age of two must still don a face covering indoors. All guests need to wear a mask in shuttles.

Similarly, Universal Studios Orlando encourages face masks indoors for unvaccinated guests, but stops short of requiring them. At Universal Studios Hollywood, guests are not required to must wear face coverings as of March 4; masks are also recommended, but not required on CityWalk.

Meanwhile, over at Legoland, masks are encouraged indoors at its locations in California and Florida, but not required. The New York location opens on April 8 and will also encourage face coverings indoors, but not require them.

The Federal Mask Mandate Still in Place

The federal transportation mask mandate of covering up at airports and on planes, ships, ferries, buses, and trains still exists. It’s set to expire on March 18, so a decision will be made in the next couple of weeks on whether to extend the requirement or end it.

When asked about travel mask mandates on March 2, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients replied, “Last week’s guidance from CDC on masking did not change air and rail travel requirements, including the requirements to wear a mask on public transportation. Those requirements are currently in place through March 18th, and they’ll continue to be so while we evaluate—leading up to March 18th—the duration of the requirement based on the state of the virus.”

You Can Choose to Wear a Mask

In May of last year, the CDC revised its mask advisories for fully vaccinated individuals only to reverse the guideline after the Delta threat in July. It’s a constantly changing situation, but you should assess your own personal risk and decide whether or not to mask up even if your community level is low.

The president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Gerald E. Harmon, expressed, “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. 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.”

The CDC recommends that those who are immunocompromised, who test positive or come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 should continue to wear a mask.