All 50 states have dropped mask mandates for the general public, but 10 states still require students to wear masks in schools, though some could drop the requirement before the start of the new school year this fall.
10 states currently mandate masks in all schools, according to technology company Burbio, which helps schools and communities build calendars and event plan: California, Washington, New Mexico, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, Hawaii and North Carolina.
Two states—Michigan and West Virginia—require masks for unvaccinated students, while most states allow local districts the flexibility to mandate face coverings without mandating it statewide.
Eight states have banned local districts from instituting a mask mandate in their schools: Utah, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Vermont, and South Carolina.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends vaccinated Americans can participate in most indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask, it still encourages “universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing” in schools. The CDC last updated its mask guidance for schools in May, and has yet to issue new recommendations for the fall 2021 school year. Should the CDC issue new guidance, some states with school mask mandates could drop them. For instance, Virginia’s school mask mandate is set to expire July 25, but Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has not said whether he will re-up it.
What To Watch For
Last month, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told ABC’s Good Morning America she expects the agency to update its guidance before the start of the school year in the fall. She said that health experts were revisiting school health procedures and waiting for more young people to be vaccinated. Children 12 years of age and older are currently eligible for a shot, and younger kids could be eligible for the shot by the fall. “We’ve said through the school year of ’20 to ’21 that our school guidance was not going to change,” Walensky said when asked why students still need to wear face coverings. “What we really are doing now is looking at the evidence in the context of so many people getting vaccinated [and] in the context of disease rates coming down in certain communities.”
Critics, who tend to skew Republican, argue mask mandates in schools are unnecessary because studies have shown that the spread of Covid-19 in schools is low (though many of these studies have concluded strict mask adherence was one of the reasons for the low spread.) Parents in states across the country have also complained to local school boards and governments that masks are harmful to children, a sentiment echoed by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson earlier this year. Health experts say the vast majority of students can wear face coverings safely.
School Mask Policy Tracker (Burbio)