As the spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant wanes, some experts say it is time to start lifting more restrictions, setting up a heated debate, particularly over mask mandates in schools.
People are exhausted with the pandemic after roughly two years, and health advocates warn that pandemic rules cannot last forever.
“We cannot remain in a perpetual state of emergency,” said Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University. “People burn out.”
Many aspects of life have already returned to something like normal. Bars and restaurants are open and packed across the country, and countless travel restrictions have been lifted. But some locations, including New York and Washington, D.C., still have mask mandates for the general public, and in schools, mask requirements are more common.
Vaccinations remain as the key source of protection. People who are vaccinated and boosted have strong protection against severe disease, even if there is still a chance they get mild illness. Wen noted that school-age children 5 and up can now all be vaccinated. And Pfizer last week began the application for its COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as six months.
Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said that restrictions in general should be lifted as cases come down, but not just yet, given that cases are still high.