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Democratic governors in several states ease mask mandates, though White House is sticking with stricter guidance

States reconsider mask mandates as COVID cases fall
States reconsider mask mandates as COVID cases fall 03:26

Democratic governors in several states are rolling back mask mandates, getting ahead of Biden administration guidance that still call for masking in schools and many other indoor spaces. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Delaware Governor John Carney and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont on Monday all announced some rollback of indoor masking requirements. As the Omicron COVID-19 variant appears to wane, California is soon lifting its indoor mask mandate for vaccinated individuals, Delaware will also end its indoor mask mandate, and New Jersey and Connecticut are dropping universal school masking requirements. 

COVID-19 transmission is still high in most of California and Connecticut, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Newsom says new cases have fallen by 65% in his state, and Connecticut's cases have also dropped off dramatically. Controlling the spread of the virus may also get a boost from expanding vaccine eligibility to children under the age of five, which could happen by the end of February.

Although the White House stands by CDC advice calling for universal school masking and masking in indoor spaces with significant transmission, it isn't criticizing these Democratic governors and even seems comfortable with letting governors take the lead on making the transition back to normal life. Pressed on the issue Monday, Psaki said the administration advises every school district to "abide by public health guidelines," but said it's always been the White House's view that decisions should be made at the school district level. 

"We certainly understand and have seen in polling that the public is tired of COVID," Psaki said. "We understand that. So are we. And there have been some good signs recently where there has been a decrease in hospitalizations around the country and again, we're in constant touch about what it looks like moving forward. But our responsibility as the federal government is to rely on the data and the science that is being analyzed by our public health experts, and we will continue to rely on that for what recommendations we're making."

The reversals come amid an election year, as Americans' approval of President Biden's handling of the pandemic has dropped and the country wearily enters a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Murphy narrowly won reelection last fall in a race in his state of New Jersey that wasn't expected to be close. 

Some Democrats have also recently been criticized for their lapses in masking in public. 

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was lambasted for posing maskless inside an NFL stadium. He claimed he was holding his breath. 

And in Georgia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has come under fire for going maskless in a classroom surrounded by masked children. Her critics declared her behavior hypocritical. She referred to their comments as "silly" and as a "false political attack."

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