State’s updated mask guidelines go into effect March 9

ELLSWORTH — Universal masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will no longer be a statewide recommendation for schools and child care settings come March 9, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine Department of Education (DOE) announced March 2.

The decision is based on factors including reduced hospitalizations, lower levels of COVID detected in municipal wastewater and fewer school outbreaks, as well as increased access to vaccines, therapeutics and other interventions that are preventing serious illness and death from the virus, according to a press release.

State officials encouraged Mainers to assess their own risks, utilize mitigation strategies and act based on their comfort levels.

“At this point in the pandemic, the focus of state government remains on maintaining the critical functions of everyday life for Maine people, including preserving hospital capacity, keeping schools open, supporting businesses and providing Maine people with the tools to keep themselves healthy, like COVID-19 vaccines and tests,” said Governor Janet Mills. “We strongly urge parents to have their children vaccinated, if eligible, which is the best way to protect them and others. Maine people should make decisions about masks that they believe are in the best interest of their health while being considerate of those around them.”

Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew noted that choices regarding mask wearing should be respected.

“As the pandemic has evolved, so too has our approach, and that includes today’s actions. Some people, communities, schools, child care centers, and businesses may choose to continue to require masking because it’s best for their circumstances – and those decisions are understandable and should be respected,” she said.

Universal masking remains recommended by the Maine CDC in medical facilities, long-term care facilities and other congregate living facilities and for people completing their isolation and quarantine periods.

While the updated guidance goes into effect March 9, it, like the previous recommendation, is not mandatory. Schools are free to act as they see fit, something that has come into play with recent reversals of school masking policies in a handful of Hancock County school districts.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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