AUGUSTA, Maine — Effective March 9, universal masking is optional for schools and child care facilities in Maine, though local leaders may continue to keep the decision universal.
In a release, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said this change is contingent on continued stability in COVID-19 trends in Maine, including reduced hospitalizations, reduced virus levels in wastewater, and reduced school outbreaks.
Officials said local school boards still have the authority to set requirements in their respective schools.
Maine has not had an indoor masking requirement for any setting, including schools or child care facilities, since June 2021. Instead, the state has recommended that facilities follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC no longer advises indoor masking for people in many areas of the U.S., according to an update released by the agency Friday. Previously, the CDC recommended that all schools and child care facilities implement universal masking and required masking on school buses.
“At this point in the pandemic, the focus of state government remains on maintaining the critical functions of everyday life for Maine people, including preserving hospital capacity, keeping schools open, supporting businesses, and providing Maine people with the tools to keep themselves healthy, like COVID-19 vaccines and tests,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a Wednesday news release.
“Maine people now have more tools to make decisions based on their own assessments of risk,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in the release. “Recent trends are encouraging, and for some individuals and communities, masking may be a smart way to limit the impact of COVID-19.”
According to the release, the Maine CDC continues to recommend universal masking in medical facilities, long-term care facilities, and other congregate living facilities as an added layer of protection for vulnerable populations in those settings.
The state also still recommends that masks be worn by people completing their isolation and quarantine periods.
Officials said the state's recommendations are subject to change based on the status of the virus in the state.
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