Pam Hetherly fills a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at the Augusta Armory, Dec. 21, 2021, in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Maine will no longer recommend that schools and day care centers require masks.

The decision came after the Maine Department of Education and Maine Center for Disease Control said it would revisit the state’s masking recommendation following February break as COVID case counts and hospitalizations have declined following a winter surge.

Local school boards can still set their own masking policies, though a number have opted to pivot to optional masking in recent weeks.

The Maine CDC still recommends that masks be worn in medical and long-term care facilities to protect medically vulnerable people.

The public health agency also recommends that people infected with COVID wear masks for the five days after they finish isolating, and said that it may change its recommendation if a new variant emerges.

“Maine people now have more tools to make decisions based on their own assessments of risk,” said Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine CDC. “Recent trends are encouraging, and for some individuals and communities, masking may be a smart way to limit the impact of COVID-19.”

The state’s main teachers’ union said it hoped schools would still consider mandating masks.

“The Maine Education Association stands firm in its belief that educators should feel safe in their schools and while at work,” said Grace Leavitt, the association’s president. “MEA is hopeful this change can safely bring continued normalcy to our students and staff, and encourages school boards and administrators to follow the science in their area and include educator voices as they make important decisions regarding masking requirements.”

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.