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Nearly half of state mask mandates have ended in the past 3 weeks

The mandate in California for those who are vaccinated expires Tuesday.
Visitors, some wearing face masks, others not, walk down Main Street USA at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., on Dec. 27, 2021.
Visitors, some wearing face masks, walk down Main Street USA at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., on Dec. 27, 2021.Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP file

Welcome to The Data Point, a series from the NBC News Data Graphics team that explains a slice of the latest news through charts and visuals.

Five states have dropped or altered business mask mandates since late January as declining Covid-19 cases have shifted political winds.

Of those states — California, Delaware, Nevada, New York and Rhode Island — all but Nevada still require masks in schools, according to an NBC News survey of state mask requirements.

The changes come despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s continuing recommendation that masks be used indoors in most of the country.

Few mask restrictions remain. On Jan. 28, 11 states required masks in some or all settings, but as of Tuesday seven, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., still have restrictions in place. Of these states, several have announced plans to lift them by the end of February or beginning of March.

The end of restrictions comes with some caveats. For example, in New York, masks must still be worn in public transportation, nursing homes, correctional facilities and homeless shelters.

Washington state plans to lift its outdoor mask mandate Feb. 18 and still requires masking indoors. And for many, school restrictions will remain for at least the coming weeks.

Nevada is taking another approach. On Thursday, the state’s governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak, opted to lift mask requirements in schools, medical settings and businesses.

Experts say masking provides some protection even when those around you are not wearing one. However, many people who are immunocompromised have said lifting restrictions would make it difficult to safely do basic activities, such as going to the grocery store.

Covid cases continue declining across most states, and the nationwide case average declined to about 157,000 as of end of day Monday, a figure close to the delta surge’s mid-September peak of nearly 167,000. The country has averaged more than 2,000 reported deaths a day for almost four weeks.

CORRECTION (Feb. 17, 2022, 6:20 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article and its graphic incorrectly included two states among those that recently ended mask mandates. Connecticut and Maryland have not done so. In addition, California still requires those who are unvaccinated to wear masks indoors at businesses. The article and the graphic have been updated.