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Maine to rescind school mask recommendation on March 9

March 2, 2022 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s state government said Wednesday it is rescinding a recommendation for universal masking in schools and child care facilities.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Maine Department of Education said they are considering mask use optional in those settings starting March 9. The final say will rest at the local level, as local school boards have authority about mask requirements in the state’s school districts.

The decision to end the mask recommendation comes as the state is experiencing reduced COVID-19 hospitalizations, fewer school outbreaks and reduced virus levels in wastewater, state officials said. The state had an indoor mask requirement earlier in the pandemic, but it was rescinded in June 2021, when the state started recommending U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

The state is continuing to recommend COVID-19 vaccinations, and that people make decisions about mask use that they believe are in the best interest of their health and considerate of the people around them, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said.

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“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,” Mills said.

The state is still recommending universal masking in medical facilities, long-term care facilities and other congregate living facilities, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Maine is one of the most vaccinated states in the nation for COVID-19. About three-quarters of the state’s total population is vaccinated against the disease. For people age 50 and older, the percentage is about 90%.

The state has been the site of more than 2,000 deaths due to COVID-19, but has suffered a lower burden of the disease than several states with similar sized populations. Montana, Rhode Island and New Hampshire have all had more deaths.