4 states announced they would be ending statewide mask mandates in schools within the next two months as indoor masking requirements continue to lift across the country.
Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Oregon’s governors all said Monday they would end mandatory masking in schools by the end of February or March, while Pennsylvania made the decision to remove its statewide mandate last month. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the move “is a huge step back to normalcy for our kids.”
The four states are among only a dozen with mask mandates in schools, according to the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy. Eight Republican-led states, including Florida and Texas, have bans on school mask mandates, although some have been suspended amid legal fights.
California won’t be removing its mask mandate in schools just yet, but Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to end the state’s indoor masking requirement for vaccinated people next week.
In addition to school mandates, most Delawareans will no longer be required to wear a mask indoors starting on Friday and Oregon will remove general mask requirements for indoor public places no later than March 31.
Nationwide, new COVID-19 cases per day have plunged by more than a half-million since mid-January, when they hit a record-shattering peak of more than 800,000. Cases have been declining in 47 states over the past two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
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📈 Today’s numbers: The US has recorded more than 76 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 905,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 397 million cases and over 5.7 million deaths. More than 212 million Americans – 64.1% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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A recent lawsuit filed by one Wisconsin health system that temporarily prevented seven workers from starting new jobs at a different health network raised eyebrows, including those of Brock Slabach, chief operations officer of the National Rural Health Association.
“To me, that signifies the desperation that hospital leaders are facing in trying to staff their hospitals,” said Slabach. His concern is for the smaller facilities that lack the resources to compete.
Already strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals around the country are desperate to staff their facilities as the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads. Governors in states such as Massachusetts and Wisconsin deployed the National Guard to help hospitals combat the surge. Six hospitals in Cleveland took out a full page ad in the Sunday Plain Dealer with a singular plea to the community, “Help.” CoxHealth is among the medical systems in Missouri to ask its office staff to help out on the front lines.
Smaller facilities — particularly rural ones that have struggled for years to stay afloat — are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to compete for health care workers in this labor market. If a hospital is unable to maintain safe staffing levels, it could be forced to curtail services or possibly close, a devastating blow for both the patients and economies of those communities.
nineteen rural hospitals closed in 2020 alone.
— Bram Sable-Smith, Kaiser Health News
Contributing: The Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism