States governed by Democrats across the country began reversing mask mandates this week, but federal officials warned against doing so and school districts were left grappling with what to do.
Connecticut will permit students and staff members to stop wearing masks in schools by no later than Feb. 28, after Gov. Ned Lamont recommended Monday that the statewide mask mandate end on that date. His remarks came after a move by New Jersey officials earlier the same day to lift that state’s mask mandate for schools.
The governors of Delaware and Oregon also made announcements on Monday about relaxing mask mandates at the end of March. And California officials said the state’s universal mask mandate for indoor public places would be lifted next week.
On Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said that she was ending the state’s indoor masking requirements, the governor of Massachusetts said that face coverings would soon become optional in schools, and the governors of Illinois, Rhode Island and Washington said that they, too, would loosen coronavirus rules.
And, by Thursday, Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada that the state was dropping its mask mandate “effective immediately.” “Students and parents have been clamoring for this for a long time,” he said. “Our businesses have been asking for this. I think this is the appropriate time.”
But there remains a barrage of conflicting public health guidance: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics continue to call for school masking, and some polls show that the public is broadly supportive of the practice.
The director of the C.D.C., Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said pointedly on Wednesday that while Covid-19 cases are dropping overall and her agency is working on new guidance for the states, it is too soon for all Americans to take off their masks in indoor public places.
Here’s what else happened this week:
With Covid treatments still in short supply in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday gave emergency authorization to a new monoclonal antibody drug that has been found in the laboratory to be potent against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The Biden administration said it would make the therapy immediately available to states free of charge.
Fighting to save his job after a scandal over lockdown parties, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain outlined plans on Wednesday to lift remaining coronavirus restrictions within weeks, including the legal requirement for those who test positive to isolate. He said he expected England’s last domestic pandemic rules to end about a month earlier than previously planned, provided cases and hospital admissions continued to decline.
The world surpassed 400 million known coronavirus cases on Tuesday, just one month after reaching 300 million, a staggering increase driven by the Omicron variant as governments and individuals worldwide wrestle with how to confront the next stage of the pandemic.
Nearly two years after Australia slammed its borders shut to almost all noncitizens, the country will reopen this month to international tourists who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday. “If you’re double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia,” he said.