As of February 17, 2022, only four U.S. states (Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon, and Washington) continue to have indoor mask mandates. Other states have switched to requiring masks only for unvaccinated individuals and in public spaces. The remaining eleven states have not imposed any mask mandates to date. As for a vaccine mandate, 46% of the states require their residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19, while 30% have no active mandate in place.
Over the past two years of the pandemic, we have seen various changes made to regulations about masks and vaccines. Early in the pandemic, U.S. health officials discouraged the public from wearing masks due to a shortage of N95 masks for the nation’s healthcare workers. Starting April 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began recommending the use of non-medical masks in public to reduce transmission. Soon after, many U.S. states enforced mask mandates for their residents.
By November 2020, nearly 35 states had made the use of masks mandatory in public spaces, with exceptions for children and those with medical conditions. Similarly, in early November 2021, the Biden administration announced a vaccine mandate, which was followed by various state governments enforcing the same.
Who Decides Mask and Vaccine Mandates?
Federal vs. State Jurisdiction
Mask and vaccine mandates are decided by the governor of each state. The President and Congress can only enforce a mask mandate for those who work directly within the federal government. Even though the CDC, a federal public health agency, announced its recommendation for a mask mandate, many states did not enforce a statewide mandate, while others did. President Biden announced on November 4th, 2021, that all employers with more than 100 workers are required to get vaccinated. However, many states, including Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, and Texas, have banned employers from mandating vaccines for COVID-19.
The President and Congress have limited power when it comes to such decisions. It is not under their authority to issue a nationwide mask or vaccine mandate. The 10th Amendment clearly states that the federal government cannot command “the States’ officers to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.” They can only give the state governments financial incentives to follow their recommendations.
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Updated List of Mask Mandates by States
35 states are recommending you follow CDC mask guidelines while 16 states are requiring masks in specific spaces. With the pandemic-related regulations changing so quickly and repeatedly, it can be confusing to keep up with the latest developments. Find below an updated list of the latest maks mandates for each state!
|State||Mask Mandate?||Description of Mandate|
|California||Requirement||Masks are required for all individuals over age 2 in all indoor public settings.|
|Colorado||Requirement||Masks are required for unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals in certain public settings.|
|Connecticut||Requirement||Individuals are encouraged to follow the CDC guidance for masks based on vaccination status. Businesses may require masks on their premises.|
|Delaware||Recommendation||The general mask mandate has been lifted, though masks remain required in school and childcare settings.|
|District of Columbia||Requirement||Masks are required in indoor public settings. The mandate is set to change starting 3/1/22.|
|Hawaii||Requirement||Required when indoors and recommended when in crowds.|
|Illinois||Requirement||Required for all individuals age 2 and up when in an indoor public place. The mandate is set to expire on 2/28/22.|
|Louisiana||Recommendation||The mask mandate has been lifted.|
|Maine||Recommendation||The mask mandate has been lifted.|
|Maryland||Requirement||All individuals over age 5 are required to wear a face-covering in certain public spaces.|
|Massachusetts||Requirement||Individuals are required to wear a face-covering in certain public spaces.|
|Minnesota||Recommendation||Individuals are encouraged to follow the CDC guidance for masks based on vaccination status.|
|Nevada||Recommendation||The mask mandate has been lifted.|
|New Jersey||Requirement||Masks are not required in indoor public spaces. Individuals are encouraged to follow the CDC guidance for masks if unvaccinated.|
|New Mexico||Requirement||The mandate has been lifted in most public spaces except hospitals and health care facilities.|
|New York||Requirement||The mandate has been lifted in most public spaces excluding hospitals and health care facilities, public transportation, and a few related spots.|
|North Carolina||Requirement||Masks are recommended for unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals. Businesses may enforce mask requirements. Masks are required for individuals over age 4 when in certain public spaces.|
|Oregon||Requirement||Masks are required for individuals over age 5 when in public indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status. Individuals over the age of 2 are required to wear a mask on public transportation.|
|Pennsylvania||Recommendation||Individuals are encouraged to follow the CDC guidance for masks based on vaccination status.|
|Rhode Island||Recommendation||The mask mandate has been lifted.|
|Vermont||Recommendation||Masks are encouraged in public indoor settings.|
|Virginia||Requirement||Individuals are recommended in accordance with CDC guidelines. Employers must require face masks.|
|Washington||Requirement||Masks are required in indoor spaces.|
Updated List of Vaccine Mandates by State
23 states have a vaccine mandate in effect while 15 states have no mandate and 13 have prohibited the enforcement of the federal mandate. Typically the mandates are focused on health care facilities, schools, and correctional facilities so make sure you check your local regulations. Employers across various states are also allowed to set their own expectations for employees. Below are vaccine mandates by state.
|State||Vaccine Mandate in Place?||Description of Mandate|
|California||Yes||Applies to state employees, healthcare workers, students, and those who wish to participate in events of 1000+ people.|
|Colorado||Yes||State employees must be vaccinated.|
|Connecticut||Yes||Applies to healthcare workers, educators, and state employees.|
|Delaware||Yes||Applies to healthcare workers, educators, and state employees.|
|District of Columbia||Yes||City employees, educators, and students. Some locations will require proof of vaccination.|
|Hawaii||Yes||Applies to state, county, and public school employees.|
|Illinois||Yes||Applies to healthcare workers and educators.|
|Louisiana||Yes||COVID-19 Vaccine is added to the list of required vaccinations needed to attend school in person. This requirement currently applies to students ages 16 or older.|
|Maine||Yes||Applies to healthcare workers, EMS personnel, and dentists or you will be excluded from the workplace for the duration of the Department's declared public health emergency|
|Maryland||Yes||Applies to state employees in healthcare.|
|Massachusetts||Yes||Applies to state executive brand and long-term care employees.|
|Minnesota||Yes||Applies to state agency employees working in person.|
|Nevada||Yes||Applies to state employees and those who transfer to DHHS or NDOC.|
|New Jersey||Yes||Applies to healthcare, state, and educators.|
|New Mexico||Yes||Applies to hospital, state, and educators.|
|New York||Yes||Applies to state, MTA/Port Authority, healthcare, and educators.|
|North Carolina||Yes||Applies to state employees.|
|Oregon||Yes||Applies to state, healthcare, and school employees.|
|Pennsylvania||Yes||Applies to state healthcare employees. Large events are up to the discretion of the host.|
|Rhode Island||Yes||Applies to healthcare employees.|
|Vermont||Yes||Applies to state executive employees.|
|Virginia||Yes||Applies to state employees.|
|Washington||Yes||Applies to state executive employees, contractors, public/private health care, educators, and long-term care employees.|
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Should I Still Wear a Mask Even if the Mandate is Lifted in My State?
The choice is up to you. In a recent White House press briefing, Dr. Walensky shared that the nation is closer to not having COVID-19 be a “constant crisis”. The seven-day average of cases has decreased 40%, and hospitalization has reduced by almost 28% in the previous week. As a result, several states are lifting their mask mandates while others are not.
If your state has lifted the mask mandate, it can be challenging to adapt to this change. While some people might be in support, others might be concerned about their health and wellbeing. The good thing about lifting the mandate is that the decision to mask up now lies in your hands! If you are someone who is more comfortable masking up before you leave your home, you are free to make your choice.
As of 1/21/22, the CDC recommends wearing a mask if:
- You are 2 years or older, and are not fully vaccinated
- You are in an area of high transmission and close contact with others
- If you have a condition or take medications that weaken your immune system
- If you are fully vaccinated and want to take precautions for unvaccinated people
- Everyone is required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and public transportation.
What Happens if There is Another Variant Coming?
We can take precautions to protect ourselves and others. While we cannot predict when or where a new variant might emerge, regular masking, social distancing, getting vaccinated, and getting the booster will all help make our homes and neighborhoods safer! This will also help slow the emergence of a new variant.
Viruses constantly change as a result of genetic selection, making them more resilient each time. The case is the same with Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It is expected that new variants will continue to emerge. In the interest of public health safety, we have organizations such as the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) that globally monitor all new variants of the virus.
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