In the first week of March, governors in Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Arizona, West Virginia and Connecticut announced significant loosening of statewide pandemic restrictions like mask mandates and indoor capacity limits.
These states joined several others in loosening statewide coronavirus restrictions in early 2021.
In 2020, some states, like Georgia and Alaska, chose never to implement statewide mask mandates. Last September, Florida became one the largest states to roll back Covid capacity restrictions when Gov. Ron DeSantis reopened bars and restaurants to full capacity.
As of March 24, the number of Covid-19 cases in the United States since the start of the pandemic was over 30 million, according to an NBC News' count. More than 546,000 people have died across the U.S.
NBC News is keeping tabs on these developments. Check back again for updates.
On March 4, Gov. Kay Ivey extended Alabama's statewide mask mandate, in effect since July 2020, but said it would expire April 9, 2021. The Republican governor also cautioned against hasty moves toward reopening.
“We need to get past Easter," Ivey said, adding that Alabama would not follow other states and immediately end restrictions without allowing more time for "more Alabamians to get their first shot."
"Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer,” Ivey said.
Republican Gov. Steve Ducey issued an executive order on March 5 ending indoor capacity restrictions at state venues including "restaurants, gyms, theaters, water parks, bowling alleys, and bars providing dine in services."
The Grand Canyon State never had a statewide mask mandate: "We always knew that fighting this virus would be dependent on the personal responsibility of everyday Arizonans," Ducey said in a press release.
In February, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the end of most indoor capacity restrictions, and on March 30, he announced the formal end of the state's mask mandate — though businesses may still require them.
Hutchinson also announced that the Covid-19 vaccine was available to people ages 16 and up.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced that the state would lift indoor capacity restrictions at dining establishments, libraries, museums, gyms, retail, offices, and houses of worship on March 19, according to NBC News Connecticut.
"Most importantly, we are keeping the mask mandate," Lamont said at a press conference March 4. "It's probably the most important thing you can do."
"This is not Texas, this is not Mississippi, this is Connecticut," Lamont said. "We have much lower infections than those mask-less states, much lower, and we are going to keep going with what works."
However, with social distancing and cleaning protocols still in effect, the Hartford Courant reports many restaurants will not be able to seat the same number of guests as they could before the pandemic, and bars will remain closed.
Gov. Eric J. Holcomb announced on March 23 that the state's mask mandate would be relaxed to a mask advisory on April 6, and that most decisions about coronavirus health restrictions would be left up to local officials.
“When I visit my favorite restaurant or conduct a public event, I will continue to wear a mask,” Holcomb said in a press release. “It is the right thing to do. Hoosiers who take these recommended precautions will help us get to what I hope is the tail end of this pandemic.”
The state's mask mandate, first issued in November 2020, was ended in early February by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced the end of Mississippi's statewide mask mandate on March 2.
"Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed," Reeves tweeted. "It is time!"
Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte announced the end of Montana's statewide mask mandate on Feb. 12, though several local jurisdictions have kept them in place.
Prior to rescinding the order, Gianforte criticized a Biden administration mandate to wear masks on federal land as making "as much sense as hugging a grizzly."
The state's mask mandate was first enacted in July 2020 by Gianforte's Democratic predecessor, former Gov. Steve Bullock.
The state first enacted a mask mandate in November, which was extended once before it expired in January 2021.
On March 11, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt announced that while the coronavirus would be in Oklahoma "for a while," statewide Covid-19 restrictions on events and individuals would end the following day, including a mask mandate on state property.
"The CDC's new guidelines mean wearing a mask should be your personal decision," Stitt said, later adding that "you are even encouraged to wear a mask depending on your circumstances."
"The standard for normal cannot be zero cases," Stitt said. "In Oklahoma the standard for normal is freedom."
The Palmetto State never had a statewide mask mandate, but on March 5 Republican Gov. Henry McMaster ended mandatory requirements that they be worn in state government buildings and restaurants.
The executive order still recommends that face coverings be worn in restaurants and anywhere people can't stay 6 feet apart. It will be up to administrative officials and restaurant operators to develop their own Covid-19 guidelines.
McMaster at a vaccine event said "this is getting better every day," hospitalization and death numbers have improved, and anyone 55 or older will be eligible for the vaccine Monday. The South Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus called it reckless as the virus continues to sicken and kill, and said it was done "to score political points."
The Lone Star State's mask mandate came into effect in July and will end on March 10, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced at a press conference on March 2.
"It is now time to open Texas 100 percent," Abbott said.
Abbott said that “too many Texans were sidelined from employment opportunities” while businesses operate at reduced capacity because of coronavirus restrictions.
Shortly after, President Joe Biden criticized Texas' move as "Neanderthal thinking."
Republican Gov. Jim Justice announced on March 5 that bars and restaurants will be able to operate at 100 percent seating capacity as of March 6, though some restrictions on standing room congregation remain in effect, according to NBC News affiliate WVVA.
“We absolutely expect you to continue to wear your mask,” Justice said. “We are not backing off of our mask mandate at this time.”
"I can't stand these masks myself, I get that and everything, none of us can," Justice said. But he warned that seeing "one robin" fly by does not mean winter is over.
"Let's just don't get too anxious to lift everything away and then get some level of whiplash that really hurts us," Justice said.
Republican Gov. Mark Gordon announced on March 8 that the state would repeal its statewide mask mandate and "allow bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms to resume normal operations on March 16," according to a press release.
Gordon said that face masks will remain mandatory inside of the state's schools and encouraged residents "to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces and to follow the best practices adopted by any business they visit to slow the spread of the virus."