The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recently revised its masking guidance to suggest that most people in the United States do not have to wear masks indoors, including on school buses.

The updated guidance comes as a statewide school mask mandate is set to expire March 7.

Just several weeks ago, with the omicron variant peaking, most people in the U.S. lived in areas of high transmission. However, more than 70% of U.S. residents now live in areas of low or medium transmission, making it unnecessary for the majority of Americans to wear a mask indoors, according to the updated guidance.

Only individuals at potential “increased risk” for COVID-19 are urged to wear masks where the level of transmission is not high, according to the new guidance. Those individuals are urged to consult with their health care provider about wearing a mask.

To help communities navigate masking policies, the CDC also released its COVID-19 Community Levels tool with the latest data. Low, medium, or high levels are determined based on hospital beds used, hospital admissions and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area. Individuals are also encouraged to use the tool to take precautions to protect themselves and others against the spread of COVID-19.

Masks No Longer Required on School Buses

In conjunction with its updated guidance, the CDC has updated its requirements for face masks while using public transportation, including school buses.

According to the guidance, “Effective February 25, 2022, CDC is exercising its enforcement discretion to not require that people wear masks on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems, including early care and education/child care programs. CDC is making this change to  align with updated guidance that no longer recommends universal indoor mask wearing in K-12 schools and early education settings in areas with a low or medium COVID-19 Community Level. School systems at their discretion may choose to require that people wear masks on buses or vans.”

“The mask requirement for schools will be lifted in New Jersey on March 7, as previously announced,” Alyana Alfaro Post, a spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Murphy’s office, said. “School districts should continue to require masking on buses until March 7, when the state’s in-school mandate ends. We are pleased that the federal government has taken action that will align bus protocol with the mask requirement for New Jersey schools.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued the following statement on the release of new CDC guidance:

“Ninety-nine percent of schools are safely open for in-person learning and that is a testament to the hard work and partnership of school communities – particularly parents, educators, district leaders and school staff. With today’s announcement of updated CDC guidance, we can continue to keep schools safely open while allowing for educators and parents to get back to focusing on what is most important: our students’ futures. Moving forward, districts should continue to work with local health experts, parents, and educators to identify what works best for their communities and consider the appropriate mitigation strategies needed to keep students and staff safe. This work – in addition to the critical work of helping students catch up academically and providing emotional and mental health supports – can and should be done using American Rescue Plan funds. As we move forward into a new phase of recovery, the department remains committed to our school communities and providing the guidance and resources they need to be successful.”

Information on the new CDC guidance can be found HERE.

Guidance from the NJDOH

The New Jersey Department of Health has also updated its COVID-19 guidance, noting, “As of March 7, 2022, the state mandate requiring in school universal masking expire. Individual school districts and school boards will be able to make the determination as to whether universal masking is appropriate for their schools.”

View an NJDOH slideshow outlining new guidelines, which was issued Feb. 25.

On Feb. 22, the NJDOH issued this updated guidance for local health departments for K-12 schools.