As mask restrictions are lifted in a handful of states, uncertainty lingers.

As the wave of Omicron begins to subside in many regions of the country, the governors of a handful of states have announced they will be lifting the mandate for school masks in the coming weeks.

But the move to ease these politically charged restrictions has divided scientists and public health experts. Some welcomed the change.

“I think it’s completely appropriate for us to start lifting the mandates on school masks now,” said Joseph Allen, a Harvard University researcher who studies indoor environmental quality, including in schools. “We’re in a much better place than before, and it’s time to update our strategies to reflect the moment.”

Others noted that the virus is still taking a significant toll on the United States, with cases about as high as last winter’s peak and more than 2,500 Americans dying each day. Lifting school mask mandates too early could jeopardize the progress the country has made in recent weeks, some health experts said.

“We’re just starting to get it back under control,” said Seema Lakdawala, a respiratory virus researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, noting that many young children are not vaccinated. “I don’t think we should stop with the interventions that we have that are still helpful.”

School mask mandates are among the most controversial public health measures taken in response to the pandemic.

“Kids can tolerate this, and if they need to, it’s fine for them to mask,” said Dr. all. “But we shouldn’t make it a second longer than necessary.”

Ideally, local officials should be willing to lift and reinstate school mask mandates if circumstances change, experts say.

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