Massachusetts Joins Growing Number of States Lifting School Mask Mandates

Massachusetts will end school mask mandates for children and faculty in K-12 schools and child care providers on February 28 following several other states that have made similar announcements after a drop in COVID-19 cases.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley announced the state will not renew the mandate when it expires at the end of the month, according to a statement released Wednesday. However, the DESE and the state's Department of Public Health suggested students and faculty should still wear masks in certain instances.

Massachusetts is one of several states announcing the removal of school mask mandates, which goes against guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Reuters has reported. Several other states, including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, lifted their mask mandates recently, leaving just a handful of states still requiring masks in classrooms.

"With Massachusetts a national leader in vaccinating kids, combined with our robust testing programs, it is time to lift the mask mandate in schools and give students and staff a sense of normalcy after dealing with enormous challenges over the past two years," said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in a statement released Wednesday.

"We have all the tools to keep schools safe as we move into dealing with the next phase of managing COVID," Baker added.

Once the mandate is lifted, local officials can choose whether to implement mask requirements in schools, along with child care providers. Students will still need to wear masks on buses, per federal orders, and in certain scenarios, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education release stated.

Riley explained that a child who tests positive for COVID will have to wear a mask in school for five days once returning to the classroom after being home for five days, Boston.com reported.

"This is the right time to lift the mask mandate…schools are safe environments, most children now have had access to vaccinations that greatly reduce the risk for severe disease for several months," said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito in the statement.

Meanwhile, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Reuters it's not the time to drop mask mandates in schools or other public places. Walensky said the CDC knows state and local agencies can make their own masking policies, but the agency has not adjusted its recommendation.

"Right now our CDC guidance has not changed.…We continue to endorse universal masking in schools," Walensky told Reuters.

Massachusetts' decision was made after the state reached one of the highest vaccination rates for children in the U.S. and is the overall leader of vaccinations in the nation. At least 52 percent of people who are fully vaccinated in the state have received a booster shot, compared to the national average of 42 percent, the statement said.

Update 2/9/2022 10:30 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to provide additional details.

Massachusetts Lifting School Mask Mandate
Massachusetts has announced that it will lift its school mask mandate starting February 28. Above, students get off a bus at Roseway Heights Middle School on the first day of in-person hybrid learning on April 19, 2021, in Portland, Oregon. Craig Mitchelldyer/AP Images for Portland Public Schools/AP Photo