Pacific Northwest states move to lift mask regulations; Michigan removes school reporting order

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Pacific Northwest states are lifting their mask mandates on Saturday. 

“We’re turning a page in our fight against the COVID virus,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said during a recent news conference.

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“Two years ago today, we identified Oregon’s first case of COVID-19,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. “On the West Coast our communities and economies are linked. Together, as we continue to recover from the omicron surge, we will build resiliency and prepare for the next variant and the next pandemic.”

In February, the governors announced that they would be lifting rules requiring masks in indoor public places and schools on March 12.

However, other state and federal mask requirements are in effect, including those with health care settings and on public transportation. 

A sign near the Space Needle notes that masks are required for indoor spaces, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Seattle. 

A sign near the Space Needle notes that masks are required for indoor spaces, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Seattle. 
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

School districts and local governments have the option to continue to require masks. 

Seattle Public Schools is set to lift its mask mandate on Monday and Oregon’s Department of Education director said that some schools have chosen to keep mask requirements in place through spring break or are in “decision-making mode.” 

In Oregon, individual businesses, employers and other organizations also have that ability.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is extending its COVID-19 mask mandate until April 18. 

As COVID-19 cases have fallen around the U.S. following the winter surge of the omicron variant, state and local leaders have moved to ease or do away with pandemic regulations. 

MORE THAN 90 PERCENT OF AMERICANS CAN GO WITHOUT MASKS: CDC

At the end of last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acted to ease its guidance on wearing masks indoors, including for schools. 

The move shifted from looking at COVID-19 cases counts to a more comprehensive view about a community’s risk from the virus. 

According to a map that shows COVID-19 community levels by county, 98% of the U.S. population resides in areas where masks are not necessary indoors.

On Friday, Michigan’s health department – which has dropped mask recommendations in schools and other indoor settings – updated guidance for how people should quarantine if exposed to COVID-19, including an altered emphasis on household contacts.

The guidance, which also applies to K-12 schools, says household contacts do not have to quarantine at home if they monitor for symptoms, wear a mask around others and avoid unmasked activities or activities with a higher risk of exposing vulnerable individuals over the course of 10 days. 

They also should get tested at least once, three to seven days after exposure.

Non-household contacts should also track symptoms, be tested if they develop them and consider wearing a mask around others.

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In addition, Director Elizabeth Hertel rescinded an order requiring schools to report infections to the school community once notified by local health officials – though they must still report cases and outbreaks to county health departments and the state continues to recommend that schools notify students and staff of potential exposures. 

The state also updated guidelines for child care facilities so they are consistent with schools and kept different standards for health care, long-term care, corrections and other high-risk settings in place.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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