In the small Nebraska town of Oxford, the school district dropped its mask mandate last month in what was a fairly straight-forward decision: Cases were down dramatically, and it didn't bother local officials that their move flouted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Those federal mask guidelines just didn’t seem to fit local conditions well in the town of about 800 people where hardly anyone wears a mask.
“We haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to what is going on at the federal level — mainly what is coming out through the state,” Southern Valley Superintendent Bryce Jorgensen said. “You just can’t compare Chicago to Oxford, Nebraska. Things are just different.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers. And those who are unvaccinated can go outside without masks in some situations, too.
For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of one another.
The decision marked the U.S. government’s latest step toward normalcy, but came as much of the country already had moved on from mask rules. The CDC essentially endorsed what many Americans have already been doing.
On the same day the CDC updated its guidance, Louisiana’s governor partially lifted the state’s mask mandate, the first Democratic governor to make such a move during Joe Biden's presidency. Elsewhere, local government leaders have been doing away with mask rules, and in many states, face coverings are an infrequent sight indoors, let alone outside.
In Montgomery, Alabama, 73-year-old Judy Adams said she hasn't worn a mask outside since the early days of the pandemic a year ago and only puts them on inside when stores mandate them. Alabama had a statewide mask mandate until earlier this month, when the governor let it expire.