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• Though the majority of states do not have statewide school mask mandates, individual school districts still have mandates.
• The absence of state mask rules has not meant a full return to pre-pandemic “normal” at school in most places.
Many states have rescinded, avoided or even prohibited school mask mandates. But a social media post makes a pair of false claims about what that means for students.
"All of the children in the green states are back to living mask-free, normal lives," said the text on a Feb. 14 post on Instagram. It includes a map of the United States with the majority of states colored green and a handful — mostly on the West and East coasts, plus Illinois and New Mexico — colored red, which means they have "forced masking" in schools, according to text on the post.
"Mad yet?" the post asks.
It was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The claim wrongly says "all of the children" in the states marked in green are not required to wear masks in school. While mask mandates are not statewide in those places, individual schools and school districts within many of those states still have mandates.
Texas is marked in green on the map. It has a mask-mandate ban that has been mired in court challenges, a common scenario across the country. Some Texas districts still require masks. For example, in the Austin Independent School District, everyone — students, staff and visitors — is required to wear a mask.
"School boards and mayors are not always in sync with state leaders, leaving many districts tied up in lengthy litigation over mask rules," the New York Times reported.
Another example is North Carolina, also marked in green on the Instagram post map. The state does not have a statewide mask mandate, but individual school districts and charter schools can choose to require masks, and as of Feb. 11, several dozen districts were doing so, the News & Observer in Raleigh reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends indoor masking for all students ages 2 and older, and for staff and teachers, regardless of vaccination status. Claims that masks are harmful to children have been widely debunked, and science shows mask-wearing is largely safe for children.
Further, the post misleadingly implies that the absence of masks equals a return to normal life at school, which is not the case. Many districts still have quarantine requirements for students who are close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases, which disrupt normal schooling.
The CDC recommends five days’ quarantine for those exposed to COVID-19 who are not up-to-date on vaccinations, a category that includes many young children. Nationally, about 28% of children ages 5 to 11 had received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Jan. 18, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.
An Instagram post says, "All of the children in the green states are back to living mask-free, normal lives," and shows a map of the U.S. with the majority of states marked in green.
Though the majority of states do not have statewide school mask mandates, individual school districts still have mandates. And many school districts also have quarantine requirements for students who are close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19, which disrupts normal schooling.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
Austin American Statesman, "Appeals court blocks federal judge's ruling that allowed Texas schools to mandate masks," Dec. 2, 2021
Austin Independent School District, "AISD COVID-19 Information," accessed Feb. 16, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools," updated Jan. 13, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "COVID-19: Quarantine and Isolation," updated Jan. 27, 2022
Education Week, "Which States Ban Mask Mandates in Schools, and Which Require Masks?" updated Feb. 15, 2022
Instagram post, Feb. 14, 2022
KHN, "Quarantine and Tracing Rules Are All Over the Map for Students," Nov. 16, 2021
Kaiser Family Foundation, "Update on COVID-19 Vaccination of 5-11 Year Olds in the U.S.," Jan. 20, 2022
NBC Washington, "Loudoun County Parents Rally in Support of Masks," Jan. 19, 2022
New York Times, "See Mask Mandates and Guidance in Each State," updated Feb. 11, 2022
PolitiFact, "Lawmaker's claim that mask mandates harm early childhood development falls short of scientific proof," Jan. 19, 2022
PolitiFact, "No, study didn't prove that masks have negative effects on 68% of children," Jan. 29, 2021
PolitiFact, "Science shows mask-wearing is largely safe for children," Aug. 12, 2021
The News & Observer, "More NC school districts are dropping mask mandates. Answers to common questions," Feb. 11, 2022
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