New Jersey, Delaware Drop School Masks, 13 States, D.C. Still Have Mandates

The governors of Delaware and New Jersey announced Monday they will lift mask mandates for school districts in March, which leaves just over a dozen states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have not ended student mask requirements.

The two states are the most recent ones to lift mask restrictions as coronavirus cases continue falling across the country, particularly in certain regions like the Northeast. Other states, including Connecticut, New York and California, are considering a change in their mask protocols ahead of a transition into learning to live with the virus as an endemic rather than a pandemic threat.

Delaware Governor John Carney announced Monday the state's indoor mask mandate will end Friday at 8 a.m. However, he revised a state of emergency order, extending the school mask mandate for both private and public K-12 schools until March 31, WTXF-TV reported.

Officials said the extension will give parents more time to get their kids vaccinated and give the Division of Public Health and the Department of Education more time to work with schools to adjust their quarantine and contract-tracing guidelines.

Also on Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced an end to the statewide mask mandates for students, beginning March 7. The change means students and teachers won't be required by school districts to wear masks for the first time since the pandemic began in early 2020. Murphy is officially expected to announce the change during a press conference Monday afternoon, WTXF reported.

At present, 13 states and the District of Columbia have not dropped mask mandates for schools. Those states are Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Louisiana and Hawaii, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Other governors with statewide mask mandates are considering whether to change their orders. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said last week he is considering a change to the state's mask mandate, noting that Connecticut is in "a very different situation than what we faced a couple of years ago," according to The Hartford Courant.

Lamont said he will decide in the next few days whether to keep the mandate. He is open to towns making their own decisions regarding masks in schools but said he's not ready to make that call yet.

There is speculation about whether California Governor Gavin Newsom will keep school mask mandates after he said last week an "endemic plan" will be released in the coming weeks. The state's indoor mask mandate is set to expire February 15. The governor's new plan for living with the virus could include changing the school mask mandate, KPIX-TV reported.

In New York, school mask mandates are set to expire on February 21, but Governor Kathy Hochul hinted at changing the masking requirements amid the fall in virus infections in her state.

"We'll be making some announcements in the short term as we see these numbers progressing," she said this past Friday, according to the New York Post.

Hochul also pushed for more children to get vaccinated. The more students who get vaccinated, she said, "the safer they'll be when they go to school and get to the time where we don't need a mask anymore."

Statewide School Mask Mandate Ending
The governors of New Jersey and Delaware are ending a statewide mask mandate in schools beginning in March. Above, students line up to enter the Christa McAuliffe School in Jersey City, New Jersey, on April 29, 2021. Seth Wenig/AP Photo