In this July 16, 2021, file photo, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical School, displays two of the acceptable N95 face masks that are included in a COVID-19 vaccination policy in Jackson, Miss. Credit: Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Healthy Mainers in counties with lower COVID-19 rates can stop wearing masks, federal health authorities said.  

COVID-19 transmission rates are low enough in all 16 counties that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says healthy residents can safely end wearing masks.

This comes after Gov. Janet Mills announced on March 2 that mask recommendations would be dropped for schools and daycare centers, and the Maine Legislature dropped its mask requirement on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has mostly worked through its backlog of more than 50,000 positive tests it reported on Feb. 14.

Wastewater testing throughout the state has allowed officials to get a better understanding of the prevalence of COVID-19 throughout Maine, as the Maine Center for Disease Control as more people opt for home testing that is not reported in the state’s daily case count.

Preliminary data suggest that some Maine communities, such as areas in Piscataquis, Waldo and York counties have seen a drop in coronavirus in wastewater. However, wastewater data show that COVID-19 rates vary widely across the state.

The U.S. CDC is still advising that people, including schoolchildren, wear masks where the risk of COVID-19 is high. Masking requirements for public transportation and indoors in airports, train stations and bus stations will remain in place for now.

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.