The mask has been a political flag during the pandemic in the United States. This Monday the West Coast has waved a white flag by decreeing the end of its use in schools and interiors, an issue that had become one of the great claims of conservative groups in the region, a Democratic stronghold. California, Oregon and Washington have made a joint announcement due to the drop in infections in the three entities. The west wants to turn the page again.
Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, pointed out that the masks have been an “effective” tool that helps slow the rate of transmission when it is very fast. The entity, the most populous in the country, had a tough start to the year due to the increase in those infected with coronavirus that left the holiday season and the 2021 holidays. In the last two weeks, however, the number of positive cases has fallen 50%. 78% of the population already has its complete vaccination schedule.
All these are keys that have led to relax the measures. Newsom has said this morning that, although he “strongly suggests their use”, masks will not be mandatory indoors for the unvaccinated from March 1. The same case will apply to minors and students in face-to-face classes from Saturday, March 12. California was, along with Hawaii, the only two entities in the country that maintained the mandatory wearing of masks in classrooms. The authorities had already withdrawn the measure days ago for the population that has its complete vaccination schedule.
The use of masks in classrooms had been one more battlefield in the fight between the left and the right. The federation allowed local authorities to choose, and California, Oregon and Washington were among those that took the toughest stances. Three other Republican states had passed laws to make their compulsory employment illegal. Eight entities preferred not to take a clear position and allowed each school to determine for itself.
“We cannot foresee the future of the virus, but we are prepared for it and will continue to base our decisions on science,” Newsom said in a statement Monday. The only places where the mask is still mandatory will be on public transport, hospitals, prisons, shelters for the homeless and nursing homes.
Kate Brown, the governor of Oregon, indicates that the important announcement comes two years after the start of the pandemic. “As we continue to recover from the omicron variant, we continue to build resilience and prepare for the next variant and the next pandemic,” the Democratic politician said. The mask will no longer be a mandatory accessory in public places, schools and indoors from the first minute of March 12.
In a progressive region, but with a strong libertarian tendency, the governors have stressed that despite the new state decrees, the final decision on the use of the mask will fall to families and businesses, which will be able to continue asking their clients for them, as well as the vaccination card.
“We must continue to keep in mind that many in our community are vulnerable,” said Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, who recently began to relax the measures. The local president announced last week that the inhabitants of his state, of 7.6 million people, will be able to remove, as of March 21, the mask indoors, schools and kindergartens. Hospitals, prisons and nursing homes are excluded. Starting tomorrow, it will not be necessary to show proof of vaccination to enter mass events. The entity calculates that with spring less than 5% of the cases of coronavirus detected will need hospital admission.
This Monday’s announcement has some exceptions. Los Angeles County, the most populous place in California, has not yet followed the pace that Newsom has dictated from Sacramento. Local authorities have opted for caution in a site of high population density. The relaxation in this region, and in others such as Santa Clara County (San José), will come once the rate of transmission of the coronavirus is moderate according to the criteria of the CDC health authorities. This is registering less than 730 new daily cases for at least a week. At the moment this is still high in several counties in southern and northern California, in most counties in Oregon and in 9 of the 39 into which Washington is divided.
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