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California, Oregon, Washington announce plans to lift indoor mask mandates

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California, Oregon, Washington announce plans to lift indoor mask mandates
Members of the San Francisco Boys Chorus, wearing masks, greet traffic on the Embarcadero in San Francisco on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. California, Oregon and Washington announced plans to lift their indoor mask mandates in early March as COVID-19 cases decline throughout the region. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 28 (UPI) -- California, Oregon and Washington announced plans to lift their indoor mask mandates on Monday, citing declining COVID-19 cases.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state will no longer require masks for unvaccinated individuals beginning Tuesday but masks will still be "strongly recommended" for all individuals in most indoor settings.

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The state will also lift its mask requirements in schools and child care facilities beginning March 11.

"California continues to adjust our policies based on the latest data and science, applying what we've learned over the past two years to guide our response to the pandemic," said Newsom. "Masks are an effective tool to minimize spread of the virus and future variants, especially when transmission rates are high. We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward."

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The governor said masks will still be required for everyone in "high transmission settings" such as public transit, emergency shelters healthcare settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities. Local jurisdictions may also choose to implement more stringent guidelines.

Los Angeles County, the state's most populous county, announced Friday it was dropping its indoor face mask mandate for all vaccinated people.

The county said people may still need to show proof of vaccination and employers also can permit workers to remove their masks if they are vaccinated.

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"This moment gives us a renewed sense of optimism about the direction of this pandemic,'' Mayor Eric Garcetti said, according to KNBC-TV. "We are able to take these steps today because of our collective determination and sacrifice, and we should take pride in that.''

Los Angeles Unified School Board Vice President Nick Melvoin called on the state to give clear guidance based on health metrics so they can effectively communicate with their parents, students and staff, but added the momentum has clearly been for moving forward without the masks.

"As more people in other settings are increasingly allowed to remove their masks, the call for this guidance on when children can remove masks indoors at schools will only grow louder," Melvoin said, according to the Orange County Register.

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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced the state will lift mask mandates for indoor public places and schools after 11:59 p.m. on March 11, while federal requirements for healthcare settings, public transit and other specialized settings will remain in place "for a period of time."

"Together, as we continue to recover from the Omicron surge, we will build resiliency and prepare for the next variant and the next pandemic," she said. "As we learn to live with this virus, we must remain vigilant to protect each other and prevent disruption to our schools, businesses and communities -- with a focus on protecting our most vulnerable and the people and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19."

The state had previously said it would lift mandates for schools and indoor places on March 19 but decided to move the date forward to align with the neighboring states.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said his state will also lift its indoor mask mandate at 11:59 p.m. on March 11 and will issue new guidance for K-12 schools next week.

"While this represents another step forward for Washingtonians, we must still be mindful that many within our communities remain vulnerable," said Inslee. "Many businesses and families will continue choosing to wear masks, because we've learned how effective they are at keeping one another safe. As we transition to this next phase, we will continue to move forward together carefully and cautiously."

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