The statewide school mask mandate in Massachusetts ends Monday, leaving the COVID-19 policy decision up to local districts.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced earlier this month that he would lift the state's mask mandate effective Feb. 28, citing student's mental health, vaccination rates and other accessible tools to deal with the pandemic. The statewide mask requirement for K-12 schools had been extended three times since August.
School districts can choose to establish their own local requirements and Baker said the administration said it would "fully support" individuals who choose to mask up once the mandate lifts.
Some of the state's largest school districts, like Boston and Worcester, have decided to maintain the mask mandate in schools while others, including Duxbury and Brockton, have opted to lift them.
Brockton Public Schools is among the districts in Massachusetts lifting the school mask mandate Monday, making face coverings optional in school, on buses and vans. Masks are still required inside the school nurse's office, however.
Boston and Worcester decided to keep the mandate for now. Worcester will enforce the policy for an additional week, while Boston Public School leaders are scheduled to meet Monday to decide on a timeline.
On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its requirement for masks to be worn on school buses or vans. The CDC outlined the new set of measures for communities where COVID-19 is easing its grip, with less of a focus on positive test results and more on what’s happening at hospitals.
In more than 42 Massachusetts school districts, 80% of staff and students are vaccinated, according to Baker.
In place of the statewide mandate, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has recommend that masking rules continue in certain scenarios. The Department of Early Education and Care also updated its guidance to reflect a similar change.
Officials noted that they are able to change course should that become necessary, but based on the current circumstances, they said a mandate was no longer needed. People are encouraged to wear masks if that is their personal preference.
Boston doctors were split on whether masks should continue to be required in Massachusetts schools. During NBC10 Boston's weekly "COVID Q&A" series Tuesday, Dr. Shira Doron, hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, said it's time to lift the mask mandate, while Boston Medical Center's Dr. Sabrina Assoumou and Brigham and Women's Hospital's Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes cautioned that it's still too soon.