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New Mexico, Washington Announce Plans To Lift Indoor Mask Mandates

Washington state and New Mexico are lifting their indoor mask mandates as other states and local governments across the country relax COVID-19 rules and regulations. 

The Associated Press reported that Washington’s indoor mask mandate throughout the state will lift in most areas on March 21st, as well as at schools and child care centers.

Washington Democratic Governor Jay Inslee made the announcement on Thursday. The policy is one of the few remaining mandates in the nation. 

Beginning on March 1st, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will also no longer be needed to attend large events. 

“Masks will still be required in health care settings, like hospitals and doctor’s offices, and at long-term care facilities, prisons and jails. They will also still be required on public transit, taxis, ride-hail vehicles and school buses,” the AP reported. “Private businesses and local governments that want to require masks for employees, customers or residents will still able to do so.”

Inslee reportedly noted that the reason the mandate will be ending later in March is due to hospital admission projections. At a press conference on Thursday, he noted that COVID-19 hospitalizations are around 20 per 100,000 people. His stated goal is to get that amount even lower — down to 5 — which is the point at which he stated that hospitals will be able to go back to more of a regular working protocol. 

“To those who think maybe it should end earlier, all I can tell you is we lost 1,000 people in January to this disease,” he said. “And when we make decisions, it seems to me we ought to have a recognition of how dangerous and deadly this disease still is after this period of time.”

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) also made an announcement on Thursday, noting that the state’s mask mandate for indoor public areas would be ending. The declaration was not expected and the state’s leading health authority reportedly “had said just last week that masks were effective and that New Mexico was still in ‘hot water,’” per the AP.

New Mexico and Hawaii were the remaining states that had not determined a date to end their mandates before the governor’s announcement, as Inslee made the announcement for Washington on Thursday, as well.

“Lujan Grisham cited reduced COVID-19 risks and removed her mask at an indoor news conference alongside Democratic legislators and top officials from her administration,” the AP reported. 

“It’s not a political decision,” Lujan Grisham said. “It’s the right time for us. We are conquering COVID and we’ll keep doing that.”

However, she stressed that masks are still an effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep vulnerable people safe.

“I may never visit my mother without a mask on,” Lujan Grisham said.

The majority of the Democratic political figures and state authorities also removed their masks after the announcement, as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase.

“Scrase said later that masks would still be required at hospitals and congregate care settings such as nursing homes,” the AP noted.

Lots of states have announced plans to get rid of rules regarding indoor masking, per The Hill. Many are now looking to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its guidance on mask-wearing.

As CNBC reported on Wednesday, the CDC “is reviewing its mask guidance, shifting its focus to Covid hospitalizations as a key measure of the severity of the outbreak and future guide for determining whether health safety protocols need to be tightened, according to the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.”

“We must consider hospital capacity as an additional important barometer,” Walensky said at a White House Covid update on Wednesday. “We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when these metrics are better, and then have the ability to reach for them again should things worsen,” she said.

“We’re moving toward a time when Covid isn’t a crisis, but it’s something we can protect against and treat,” White House Covid Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said at the briefing. “The president and our Covid team are actively planning for the future.”

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