Mask mandates dropped in every state: 3 pandemic updates

Hawaii Gov. David Ige on March 8 announced the state would lift its universal indoor mask mandate March 26, making it the final state to do so, The New York Times reports. 

"We have reduced COVID-19 in a way to the point where most of us will be safe without masks indoors," Mr. Ige said during a press conference.

The move is an abrupt pivot from a week ago, when the governor said the mask mandate would remain in place as other restrictions, such as the state's entry requirements for travelers, were dropped. Hawaii held onto its mask mandate longer than most of the country because "we are willing to sacrifice to keep each other healthy and safe," Mr. Ige said. Masks will remain a requirement indoors at public schools in the state. 

The CDC on March 3 provided an update on its new mask guidance, saying more than 90 percent of the U.S. population now live in areas with low or medium COVID-19 community levels, indicating masks are not needed. 

Two more updates: 

1. In a reversal, the World Health Organization on March 8 expressed support for COVID-19 boosters shots. The organization's Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition said in a statement it "strongly supports urgent and broad access to current COVID-19 vaccines for primary series and booster doses, particularly for groups at risk of developing severe disease." 

In August 2021, the WHO called for an international moratorium on booster doses as primary vaccination rates remained low in vulnerable countries. In its latest update, the agency said, "The near- and medium-term supply of the available vaccines has increased substantially; however, vaccine equity remains an important challenge and all efforts to address such inequities are strongly encouraged." 

2. In a move "toward the endemic phase of the pandemic," the Oklahoma State Department of Health is ending daily COVID-19 reports that provided updates on new cases, COVID-19 hospitalizations and death tolls. The state will now shift to a weekly report on Thursdays, according to a March 7 news release. The shift will allow the health department to "focus on key metrics that more accurately represent the impact of disease in the community, like hospitalizations."


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