‘We have to learn how to live with COVID as we move from a pandemic to an endemic phase of this virus…’

Source:

(Headline USA) The governors of four left-leaning states announced plans Monday to lift statewide mask requirements in schools by the end of February or March, citing the rapid easing of COVID-19′s omicron surge.

The decisions in ConnecticutDelawareNew Jersey and Oregon were announced as state and local governments grapple with which virus restrictions to jettison and which ones to keep in place.

Meanwhile, California announced plans to end its indoor masking requirement for vaccinated people next week, but masks will still be the rule for schoolchildren in the nation’s most populous state.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called the move “a huge step back to normalcy for our kids” and said individual school districts will be free to continue requiring masks after the state mandate ends March 7.

The changes come amid a growing sense that the virus is never going to go away and Americans need to find a way to coexist with it.

But skeptics also noted that the Left’s about-face seemed to suggest Democrats now see the mandates as a growing political liability going into the 2022 midterm elections.

The debate over masks in schools has been polarizing in much of the U.S., with parents protesting at school board meetings and slates of candidates—pro- and anti-mask—seeking school board seats in an attempt to shape policies.

Murphy faced pressure from Republicans and some parents who have held rallies at the statehouse demanding an end to the mandate.

But the governor has had support for the mask rule from the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s biggest teachers union.

In a statement, the union noted that trends show COVID-19 heading in the right direction, and added: “It is appropriate for Gov. Murphy to allow local districts to continue to require masking in communities where that is prudent based on local conditions.”

Eight Republican-led states, including Florida and Texas, have bans on school mask mandates, though some have been suspended amid legal fights with districts and parents who want to require masks, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an early adopter of anti-mandate protections for public schools, has won key victories against districts that tried to defy state law.

Virginia’s new Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin won a key victory against blue-run counties including Loudoun, Fairfax and Chesapeake that sought to defy the governor’s orders and continue imposing mask mandates.

The four blue states are among a dozen with mask mandates in schools, according to the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy.

New Jersey’s requirement has been in place since classes resumed in person in September 2020.

Murphy cited the “dramatic decline in our COVID numbers” in announcing the rollback.

The omicron variant fueled a spike in infections over the holidays, but cases in the state are down 50% and hospitalizations dropped off by one-third since last week, he said.

“We are not—and I’ve said this many times—going to manage COVID to zero,” the governor said. “We have to learn how to live with COVID as we move from a pandemic to an endemic phase of this virus.”

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont recommended ending the statewide mandate in schools and child care centers on Feb. 28. Delaware Gov. John Carney said his state’s school mask mandate will run through March.

Oregon’s mask requirements for schools will be lifted March 31. The statewide mask requirement for indoor public places will be lifted no later than the end of March, health officials announced.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state medical officer and epidemiologist, said education and health officials will meet in the coming weeks to revise guidance to “ensure schools can continue operating safely and keep students in class” once the mask rule is lifted.

The March 31 deadline was selected using predictions by health scientists that COVID-19-related hospitalizations will decrease to 400 or fewer by that time—a level that Oregon experienced before the omicron variant surge.

However, some critics questioned the necessity of keeping the mandates in place for several weeks after having made the announcement.