ATLANTA (NewsNation Now) — As states across the country lift COVID-19 mask restrictions and some are about to expire, many states are grappling with what to do next.
Over the past month, states like Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and a handful of other states have relaxed their mask restrictions.
The nation is now split almost down the middle, with 26 states currently having mask restrictions in place and 24 don’t. Largely, Republican-led states have eliminated mask restrictions — while Democrat states, in some cases, have strengthened them.
In January, Virginia became the first in the nation to enact permanent COVID-19 workplace safety and health rules.
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Meanwhile, in Oregon, there’s turmoil as lawmakers consider indefinitely extending rules requiring masks and social distancing in all businesses in the state.
West Virginia’s governor is lifting the limit on the number of people who can gather for social events and has tweaked the state’s face-covering mandate to allow people to exercise indoors without masks.
Data on the impact of easing the restrictions is staggering. In Texas, cases have been on a downward trend for the past month. But in places like Alabama and Mississippi, numbers have gone up and down.
Nationwide COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are once again on the rise.
Health experts are urging Americans to continue to wear masks, regardless. But many people question the need for masks if 84 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, hinted that there could soon be changes to the COVID-19 health policy on face masks.
“This is something that, as we get more information, it’s going to be pulling back that you won’t have to. But currently, the reason is that when you get vaccinated you are clearly diminishing dramatically your risk of getting infected,” Fauci said on Sunday’s Meet the Press.
Fauci added that if you “don’t have a mask, you might inadvertently infect” those around you.
Additionally, the health expert explained that some variants of the virus are more resistant to vaccines. However, he reiterated that the vaccine works “very well” against the B.1.1.7 variant, which he says is the dominant variant in the U.S.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WJW contributed tot his report.