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Some School, Indoor Mask Mandates Eased

News outlets cover the lowering of mask rules in California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Michigan in different ways — some for most indoor places, some in schools. And in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said choices over masks and vaccines should shift from the state to individuals.

AP: California, Oregon, Washington To Drop School Mask Mandates

Schoolchildren in California, Oregon and Washington will no longer be required to wear masks as part of new indoor mask policies the Democratic governors of all three states jointly announced on Monday. “With declining case rates and hospitalizations across the West, California, Oregon and Washington are moving together to update their masking guidance,” the governors said in a statement. There are more than 7.5 million school-age children across the three states, which have had some of the strictest coronavirus safety measures during the pandemic. (Gecker and Beam, 3/1)

AP: Illinois COVID-19 Mask Mandate Ending For Most Indoor Spaces

The need for face coverings in most indoor spaces in Illinois was ending Monday as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic eases. Govt. JB Pritzker earlier announced that he would lift the mandate for masks to slow the spread of the deadly virus as the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations fall. The Democratic governor intended that the requirement remain in effect for schools, where students and staff are more closely congregated, but other government action has invalidated that order. (3/1)

Detroit Free Press: Michigan Rescinding Mask Mandate For Most State Employees

Michigan is rolling back its rule requiring state employees to wear masks while working indoors, according to a letter issued to all state employees Monday. The letter from Liza Estlund Olson, head of the State Office of the Employer, indicates most people working in “standard office and outdoor settings” can ditch their masks starting Thursday. The decision comes after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials drastically changed guidance on masking amid improving COVID-19 trends. (Butcher, 2/28)

Bloomberg: New Yorkers Should Make Their Own Covid Choices, Hochul Says

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Monday that choices about masks and vaccines should shift from the state back to individuals and localities as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations ebb. “Individuals should make their own decisions,” Hochul said following a weekend decision to lift an indoor school mask mandate on March 2. “Any locality can have stricter requirements than the state.” (Diaz, 2/28)

Chicago Tribune: Masks No Longer Required At Daycare Centers In Illinois

Govt. JB Pritzker on Monday added child care centers to the list of public places where masks are no longer required, a move that his office said was the result of new federal guidelines issued late Friday. Pritzker announced Feb. 9 that he would lift the mandate for most indoor public places at the end of the month, and he added schools to that list Friday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations and the Illinois Supreme Court overturned a lower court order that blocked enforcement of mask rules in schools. (Petrella, 2/28)

Oklahoman: What Does New CDC COVID Guidance For Masking Mean In Oklahoma?

About half of Oklahoma’s counties are still seeing a high enough burden of COVID-19 in their communities that residents should continue to wear masks, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new recommendations take into account the strain COVID-19 is putting on the health care system in a given community as well as new cases and hospital admissions. (Branham, 2/28)

Fox News: CDC ‘COVID-19 By County’ Tool Helps You Look Up Guidelines By Local Areas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that face masks might be optional for Americans who are in areas where COVID-19 infections are a “low” or “medium” risk. Knowing which areas have a “community level risk” can be a challenge for commuters and domestic travelers, but the CDC has launched an online COVID-19 by County tool that aims to help people keep track of coronavirus infection data and determine local health and safety guidelines, and prevention methods. “Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area,” the CDC wrote about its tool. “Take precautions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 based on the COVID-19 Community Level in your area.” (Moore, 2/28)

In updates on vaccine mandates —

AP: Honolulu To End Vaccine Proof Mandate For Eateries, Gyms

Honolulu will no longer require businesses including restaurants and fitness centers to verify employees and customers are fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test. Mayor Rick Blangiardi said Monday he will allow the emergency order that mandated vaccination proof or negative tests to expire on Saturday. (2/28)

Miami Herald: Hospitals Face Penalties If Don’t Comply With Vaccine Mandate

After months of paying bonuses to persuade employees to get vaccinated or hitting them with extra training and penalties if they didn’t, Florida hospital leaders say their institutions are well on the way to complying with a federal mandate to inoculate their workers against COVID-19 . As of Monday, hospitals were required to have all workers fully vaccinated or to grant them an approved exemption, though federal regulators are giving facilities more time to comply with the mandate without being penalized — as long as they have achieved at least a 90% compliance missed. (Chang, 2/28)

Also —

Axios: The Limits Of “Following The Science”

Two years into the pandemic, the idea of ​​”following the science” has oversimplified what’s actually a complex array of factors that policymakers must weigh in formulating a response. Science has been weaponized time and again to justify or defend positions held by both policymakers and public health experts. Even when data is irrefutable, people can disagree on the application of that data and how much value to give other factors. The CDC’s decision to loosen masking guidance is the latest example of a pandemic policy rooted in science, but that is ultimately a judgment call. (Owens and Snyder, 3/1)

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