More US states are planning to ease mask mandates for schools and indoor public settings amid the drop in recent surge of Covid-19 infections driven by the Omicron variant.
Officials in New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, California and Oregon have announced their states will lift indoor mask mandates for schools and other public places in coming weeks.
California is set to end a universal indoor mask mandate next week and roll back other restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, Xinhua news agency reported.
Connecticut will permit students and staff members to stop wearing masks in schools by no later than February 28. Delaware will end mask mandates in schools by March 31.
Statewide mask mandates for schools and indoor settings had been imposed in only a handful of states, according to a New York Times database.
The plans by these states represented “one of the biggest rollbacks of statewide health protocols” since the pandemic began, said a report of The New York Times.
The plans of easing mask mandates came as Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations continued to decline across the US.
As of February 2, Covid-19 cases are down 53.1 per cent from their peak on January 15, according to data of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The country is averaging about 378,000 new daily cases nationwide by February 2, a decrease of 37.6 per cent from the previous week, according to CDC weekly data.
The country is currently averaging about 16,000 new hospital admissions each day, an 18 per cent drop from the pervious week, CDC data show.
Despite the drop in cases and hospitalisations, the current seven-day moving average of new deaths, which stood at about 2,400, has increased 1.6 per cent compared with the previous week.
“The increase of new deaths is largely because data on deaths tend to lag case data by two to three weeks,” Zhang Zuofeng, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Xinhua.
He expected daily new deaths would start to decrease from this week.
Meanwhile, the increase of new deaths has also demonstrated the high infectiousness and lethality of the Omicron variant, especially dangerous for older citizens and those with chronic diseases, Zhang said.
The Omicron variant continued to be dominant in all infection cases in the US, with the CDC predicting the national proportion of Omicron to be 99.9 per cent for the week ending February 5.
The Omicron subvariant, known as BA.2, made up the remaining 3.6 per cent.
The CDC warned community transmission is still high nationwide. Covid-19 cases among children have spiked dramatically since early January amid the Omicron variant surge.
Nearly 4.2 million child Covid-19 cases were reported since the beginning of January. More than 12 million children in the US have tested positive for Covid-19 since the onset of the pandemic, according to a latest report of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.