In a coordinated move, governors of California, Oregon, and Washington announced on Monday that students in the three West Coast states will soon no longer have to wear a mask at school.
The changes will apply to all schools and child care facilities, but will not cover school buses, which are subject to a federal mask mandate for public transportation.
In California, masks will no longer be required for unvaccinated individuals as early as March 1. That being said, face coverings will remain mandatory for everyone in certain settings, such as health care and long-term care facilities, prisons, and homeless shelters.
The decision by the West Coast states comes on the heels of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now saying Americans don't have to wear masks if hospitals in their communities aren't overloaded with COVID-19 patients.
Under the new guidance, which shifts its focus from CCP virus transmission rate to the number of patients admitted to local hospitals because of the virus, people residing in counties categorized at "low" or "medium" risk levels are advised they can go indoors without face coverings. Almost 70 percent of Americans live in those counties.
By comparison, the previous CDC guidelines recommended masks for people living in counties considered of having "substantial" or "high" transmission. Over 90 percent of all U.S. counties would fall into those categories.
"As the virus continues to circulate in our communities, we must focus our metrics beyond just cases in the community and direct our efforts toward protecting people at high risk for severe illness and preventing COVID-19 from overwhelming our hospitals and our health care system," Walensky said.