Students and staff in K-12 schools throughout Massachusetts will not be required to mask up in school buildings starting next month, though masks will continue to be required on school buses.
Department of Elementary and Secondary education (DESE) Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley announced on Wednesday that the masking requirement for K-12 schools will be lifted on Feb. 28. DESE and the Department of Public Health, however, still recommended that students and faculty wear masks in certain scenarios.
The state is also deferring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order that mask use is required on all school buses.
Fifty-two percent of individuals in Massachusetts have reportedly been fully vaccinated and received a booster shot, compared to 42 percent of the national population. The state also reportedly has one of the highest vaccination rates among young people.
“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,” stated Governor Charlie Baker. “We have all the tools to keep schools safe as we move into dealing with the next phase of managing COVID.”
The Department of Early Education and Care will also lift the masks requirements for all licensed childcare providers on Feb. 28. The press release adds that masking will be a community choice in schools, regardless of vaccination rates within a school.
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“Schools are safe environments, most children now have had access to vaccinations that greatly reduce the risk for severe disease for several months, and thousands of families across the Commonwealth have taken this opportunity to protect their children,” stated Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “This is the right time to lift the mask mandate, and we will continue to encourage vaccination and host clinics at any school that wants to hold one to further protect their students from COVID.”
Other states such as Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware have also rescinded their school mask mandate. As School Transportation News previously reported, California announced that vaccinated people will no longer need to wear masks in most indoor locations starting Feb. 16, but the state will continue to require masks in schools as well as hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other locations deemed to be at risk.
An indoor mask mandate also expired in New York this week, but masks are still required at schools and when riding on public transportation.