California, Oregon, Washington announce full mask-optional date3 min read
Teachers, staff and students in California, Oregon and Washington will no longer be required to wear masks in schools starting March 12, according to new guidance announced by all three Democratic governors on Monday.
Under the updated guidance, masks will still be recommended in California schools and child care centers but no longer required, according to a news release from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.
“California continues to adjust our policies based on the latest data and science, applying what we’ve learned over the past two years to guide our response to the pandemic,” Newsom said in a statement. “Masks are an effective tool to minimize spread of the virus and future variants, especially when transmission rates are high. We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward.”
In addition to a shift in guidance for schools, Newsom announced Monday that unvaccinated individuals will no longer be required to wear a mask starting March 1, though masking is still “strongly recommended” in most indoor settings. Masking will still be required for everyone in high-transmission settings, including health care settings, correctional facilities, long-term care facilities and public transit.
In both Oregon and Washington, indoor masking requirements will be officially lifted starting March 12, according to Monday’s announcement. Masks will still be required in certain settings based on state and federal requirements, including in health care facilities and public transit.
“We’ve continued to monitor data from our state Department of Health, and have determined we are able to adjust the timing of our statewide mask requirement,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “While this represents another step forward for Washingtonians, we must still be mindful that many within our communities remain vulnerable. Many businesses and families will continue choosing to wear masks, because we’ve learned how effective they are at keeping one another safe. As we transition to this next phase, we will continue to move forward together carefully and cautiously.”
The updated guidance from the trio of West Coast states comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance for masking on Friday, which places more of a focus on the level of threat to hospitals. The CDC announced Friday that about 70% of Americans live in areas under “low” or “medium” threat and can, therefore, unmask when indoors.
In a statement on Monday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown noted that two years ago today, the state reported its very first case of COVID-19, saying that the past two years have made clear that “COVID-19 does not stop at state borders or county lines.
“On the West Coast, our communities and economies are linked,” Brown said. “Together, as we continue to recover from the Omicron surge, we will build resiliency and prepare for the next variant and the next pandemic. As we learn to live with this virus, we must remain vigilant to protect each other and prevent disruption to our schools, businesses, and communities––with a focus on protecting our most vulnerable and the people and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”
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