After two solid years of the pandemic, we are slowly beginning to see a decline in the number of covid cases and hospital admissions. Some businesses and schools have already started to remove the mask mandates. But what does the CDC have to say about the mask mandates? As of now, the agency has kept mum about what the individual states do- stating simply that it recommends masks in all schools until further notice.
However, there is now enormous pressure on the CDC to update its mask mandates as many public health experts say that we cannot simply live our lives with masks forever. And that the pandemic has turned into an epidemic much like the flu.
Even the hardcore democratic states like Delaware, Connecticut, and New Jersey have had enough with masks and have announced the lifting of mask requirements in schools within a few weeks. These states say that they have had a good response to vaccination and will now leave it up to the schools to decide on masking. For the most part, most states have adhered rigidly to the CDC recommendations on masks but virtually all Americans think it is time to move on with life. Even the staunch democratic governor of California, Gavin Newsome says that indoor making will no longer be required for vaccinated people starting Feb 15. And Oregon Health Authority has similarly stated that it will remove all mask requirements in indoor public places starting March 31.
The White House on the other hand remains ambiguous on the topic of mask mandates in schools and does not have any clear plan despite the decline in covid cases and hospitalization. Jean Psaki, White House press secretary says that the government will continue to abide by the recommendations of the CDC until further notice. The CDC has repeated that it will continue to review the covid 19 pandemic and then make mask mandates for schools in the future. This lack of clarity from the CDC has not gone well with most Americans who are fed up with masking both in public places and in schools. The CDC has not stated how it plans to further assess the pandemic when the data on infections and hospitalizations are already available. And it is for this reason that some states and local health authorities have decided to make their own recommendations on masks.
The general feeling is that the federal government is becoming irrelevant as it has decided to rely on old data. Most Americans also feel that the CDC has less credibility and trust today than 2 years ago. Some states are arguing why masks are necessary for fully vaccinated Americans and why the CDC has not been clear on this point. Separately, most state governments are now turning to the White House for advice on masking in schools since the CDC is refusing to budge from its 2-year-old masking mandate.
Since covid is now endemic, there are less serious cases that are not overwhelming the healthcare system. And why not lift mask mandates in populations with high vaccination rates is another answered question? Plus since many schools have started to improve their ventilation systems, the risk of infection is low; so why are masks still needed? However, all agree that in states with high infections from omicron and hospitalization mask mandate should continue.
Many nations have started to loosen their covid restrictions and opened up for business and travel. The USA which has always been reliant on advice from the CDC appears to be lagging- and at the end of the day it is the people and the economy that suffer.