See Mask Mandates and Guidance for Schools in Each State

Mask requirements and recommendations are back in many parts of the country as the Delta variant continues to spread and as leaders weigh how to keep children safe at school.

The New York Times is tracking mask policies at the state level, including where residents are advised to follow federal guidance and where leaders are rejecting such guidance or mandates.

Where Masks Are Mandated in Schools

Mandated

Mandated for some students

Local discretion

Mandates banned

In Nevada, masks are required in schools where there is currently a countywide mask mandate and in all counties with populations of 100,000 or more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all students, teachers and staff members in K-12 schools wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status. The agency says that universal masking is an important coronavirus prevention measure that will allow as many students as possible to return to in-person instruction.

But in many parts of the country, parents and local leaders have pushed back aggressively against mask requirements in schools, resulting in a patchwork of policies nationwide. Several states have gone so far as to ban mask mandates in schools, the latest sign of the continuing clash between politics and public health. And school boards and mayors are not always in sync with state leaders.

In Florida and Tennessee, governors have said that parents can choose to have their children opt out of any school mask requirements, effectively rendering those requirements moot. In September, federal judges blocked Tennessee’s opt-out rule from taking effect in certain areas.

In Texas, the governor has prohibited mask mandates in schools, but the State Supreme Court has temporarily allowed some districts to require face coverings. And in Iowa, a federal judge has paused a state law banning mask mandates in schools.

Mask guidance by county

The federal guidance for schools dovetails with updated recommendations for people living in areas experiencing coronavirus outbreaks.

The C.D.C. also now recommends that everyone in those areas, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places.

Nearly all counties across the United States are experiencing either “substantial” or “high” transmission rates that would fall under the C.D.C. masking guidelines. These designations, which are updated regularly, are based on an area’s per capita case rate or test positivity rate.

Where the C.D.C. Recommends Wearing a Mask Indoors

Guidance is based on the C.D.C.’s assessment of the level of community transmission in each county.

Recommended for everyone

Optional for the vaccinated

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention·Note: Community transmission level is based on C.D.C. case data for the week ending Oct. 20 and test positivity data for the week ending Oct. 18.

The guidance reflects the surge of coronavirus cases in many parts of the country, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant. Though the C.D.C. has been criticized for its back-and-forth recommendations on masks, public health experts say the most recent change was necessary.

“All of us, as public health professionals and scientists — we are learning about this virus in real time,” said Rachel Graham, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “These are things that have to be mapped out from day to day.”

Mask policies by state

Masks remain a polarizing symbol, and the shifting federal guidelines have led some local leaders to introduce their own policies. While some governors are once again moving to require masks in their states, several are resisting the idea of universal mask mandates. In August, Oregon became the first state to restore a statewide mask mandate requiring masks indoors and outdoors regardless of vaccination status.

Mandated

Statewide

Some counties

Recommended

Statewide

Some counties

No mandate

No guidance

Mandates banned

State

Policy

Share of counties where C.D.C. recommends masks

Hawaii

Mandated statewide

80%

(4 counties)

Illinois

Mandated statewide

100%

(102 counties)

Louisiana

Mandated statewide

83%

(53 counties)

New Mexico

Mandated statewide

100%

(33 counties)

Oregon

Mandated statewide

100%

(36 counties)

Puerto Rico

Mandated

6%

(5 counties)

Washington

Mandated statewide

100%

(39 counties)

Washington, D.C.

Mandated

100%

(1 county)

Nevada

Mandated in some counties

94%

(16 counties)

Arkansas

Recommended statewide

96%

(72 counties)

California

Recommended statewide

93%

(54 counties)

Connecticut

Recommended statewide

100%

(8 counties)

Delaware

Recommended statewide

100%

(3 counties)

Idaho

Recommended statewide

95%

(42 counties)

Mississippi

Recommended statewide

93%

(76 counties)

New Jersey

Recommended statewide

90%

(19 counties)

New York

Recommended statewide

100%

(62 counties)

Vermont

Recommended statewide

100%

(14 counties)

Alabama

Recommended in some counties

93%

(62 counties)

Alaska

Recommended in some counties

79%

(23 counties)

Colorado

Recommended in some counties

100%

(64 counties)

Indiana

Recommended in some counties

99%

(91 counties)

Kansas

Recommended in some counties

99%

(104 counties)

Kentucky

Recommended in some counties

100%

(120 counties)

Maine

Recommended in some counties

100%

(16 counties)

Michigan

Recommended in some counties

100%

(83 counties)

Minnesota

Recommended in some counties

100%

(87 counties)

North Carolina

Recommended in some counties

100%

(100 counties)

Oklahoma

Recommended in some counties

99%

(76 counties)

Pennsylvania

Recommended in some counties

100%

(67 counties)

Rhode Island

Recommended in some counties

100%

(5 counties)

South Dakota

Recommended in some counties

95%

(63 counties)

Virginia

Recommended in some counties

98%

(130 counties)

Wisconsin

Recommended in some counties

100%

(72 counties)

Wyoming

Recommended in some counties

100%

(23 counties)

Maryland

No mandate or recommendation

100%

(24 counties)

Massachusetts

No mandate or recommendation

100%

(14 counties)

Missouri

No mandate or recommendation

94%

(108 counties)

Nebraska

No mandate or recommendation

92%

(86 counties)

New Hampshire

No mandate or recommendation

100%

(10 counties)

Ohio

No mandate or recommendation

100%

(88 counties)

Utah

No mandate or recommendation

97%

(28 counties)

West Virginia

No mandate or recommendation

100%

(55 counties)

Arizona

Mandates banned

100%

(15 counties)

Florida

Mandates banned

91%

(61 counties)

Georgia

Mandates banned

84%

(133 counties)

Iowa

Mandates banned

99%

(98 counties)

Montana

Mandates banned

100%

(56 counties)

North Dakota

Mandates banned

98%

(52 counties)

South Carolina

Mandates banned

98%

(45 counties)

Tennessee

Mandates banned

99%

(94 counties)

Texas

Mandates banned

88%

(223 counties)

Note: States determine mask policies at the county level based on the C.D.C.’s data on county transmission levels, except for Wyoming, which uses its own index for counties. Local orders may differ from state requirements.

Some public health experts never stopped recommending that both the vaccinated and unvaccinated wear masks.

“I personally would have recommended it anyway,” Dr. Graham said, “especially because the fully vaccinated rate is not as high as we were hoping it would be.”

And though the vaccines offered in the United States are highly effective at preventing serious illness from Covid-19, some experts point to a growing number of reports of vaccinated people testing positive for the coronavirus, and reports of children, previously thought to be a low-risk group, also contracting the virus.

“No vaccine is 100 percent effective, and we are seeing that,” said Dr. Joshua Liao, an internal medicine physician and a professor at the University of Washington, who recommends mask-wearing indoors. “If you wait for the science to be perfect with coronavirus, then you’re lagging behind.”

“I think that back-and-forth does create a certain kind of fatigue,” he added. “But I think there is a bigger issue, in the underpinning of public health, where it’s not just in our hands, but it’s in each other’s hands.”

Tracking the Coronavirus