The Latest: New Mexico adopts CDC guidance on facemasks

International News

In this photo released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore, Singapore Second Minister of Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, second right, speaks with Indian High Commissioner P Kumaran, right, during a handover of humanitarian assistance to India at the Paya Lebar Air Base in Singapore, Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore via AP)

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico has adopted guidance on facemasks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors or outside in most cases.

Under revisions Friday to the state’s emergency public health order, masks are no longer required of fully vaccinated people in many public settings, though businesses and workplaces may still make face coverings a requirement for all.

Public schools are still bound by universal mask requirements with allowances for meals, as the state gradually relaxes aggressive restrictions on public gatherings and some business operations.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that getting vaccinated is crucial to a safe future, with the statewide vaccination rate recently surpassing 50% for eligible residents 16 and over.

“We are close and getting closer. But that all depends on New Mexicans continuing to protect themselves and their community by getting vaccinated,” she said in a statement.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— States, business sort out whatnew CDC mask guidance means

— Delta Airlines will require new hires get vaccinated against virus

— UK jubilant as lockdown restrictions to be lifted next week

— Disney CEO says more people allowed into parks

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— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemicand https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska legislative leaders have voted to make mask-wearing optional at the state Capitol and then shed their own face coverings after the vote.

The decision by the Legislative Council followed new guidelines the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The council is composed of House and Senate leaders.

Under the new policy, masks are optional in legislative facilities, with some exceptions. For example, lawmakers can require masks in their respective offices.

The policy also further eases testing rules.

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BATON ROUGE, La. –Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has further eased the state’s mask requirements.

Edwards largely dropped the state mask mandate on April 27, but there were exceptions. Friday’s order drops the requirement for entry into state office buildings for people who are fully vaccinated.

Masking is still required by the state in educational facilities from early childhood classes to universities, and at state correctional facilities and health care facilities.

New Orleans, which had a tougher mask mandate than the state’s, also did away with the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people Friday, with similar exceptions.

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Word from federal health officials that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks in most situations may be leading to confusion among travelers.

Masks are still required under a Transportation Security Administration rule that will run into mid-September unless it is revoked before then. The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates airlines, felt the need to remind passengers of the TSA rule.

It issued a statement late Friday to “remind the traveling public that at this time if you travel, you are still required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.”

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NEW YORK — Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, said Friday that it won’t require vaccinated shoppers or workers to wear a mask in its U.S. stores, unless state or local laws say otherwise.

Vaccinated shoppers can go maskless immediately, the company said. Vaccinated workers can stop wearing them on May 18. As an incentive, Walmart said it is offering workers $75 if they prove they’ve been vaccinated.

Walmart said it won’t ask shoppers if they’ve been vaccinated. Workers, however, will need to tell the company if they’ve been vaccinated in order to go maskless.

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JUNEAU, Alaska — The acting mayor of Anchorage says Alaska’s largest city is revoking its mask mandate, starting May 21.

Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson’s office says masks no longer will be required in indoor or outdoor settings but that people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are encouraged to wear masks.

The decision follows guidance released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday for people who are vaccinated.

Quinn-Davidson’s office says applying a mask mandate only to those who are not vaccinated in Anchorage would have created enforcement challenges and issues for businesses.

Meanwhile, in Juneau, city officials ease mask wearing rules for people who are fully vaccinated.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ capital city is dropping its requirement to wear a mask to combat the coronavirus following loosened federal guidance and a new state law that will ban local mandates, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott said Friday.

Scott said the city’s mask mandate will end Saturday, though private entities, hospitals and churches can still enforce their own requirements on employees and patrons. People entering City of Little Rock indoor facilities will still be required to wear a mask, the mayor said.

“We strongly encourage residents to continue wearing face coverings in public until we reach the desired vaccination rate in our city, as outlined by healthcare professionals,” Scott said in a statement.

The decision comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

Arkansas dropped its mask mandate in March, but the governor allowed local governments to enforce their own. A new state law, however, takes effect in July that will ban any state or local mandates.

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ATLANTA — Georgia’s 26 public universities and colleges do not currently plan to require students, faculty or staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the fall, according to guidance issued by the University System of Georgia.

The 340,000-student university system in March asked all campuses “to plan for resuming normal operations for the Fall 2021 semester.” Thursday’s guidance says fully vaccinated people won’t have to socially distance or wear masks, while unvaccinated people “are strongly encouraged to continue” socially distancing and wearing a mask inside.

The universities are supposed to make sure vaccinations are available, but schools won’t be “responsible for assessing current COVID-19 vaccination rates for their institution.”

The university system said it had made the decisions in concert with the state Department of Public Health and that they were subject to change.

The Board of Regents insisted on at least some in-person instruction in the fall and spring semesters. Those moves came despite resistance from some employees.

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ATLANTA — Georgia’s 26 public universities and colleges do not currently plan to require students, faculty or staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the fall, according to guidance issued by the University System of Georgia.

The 340,000-student university system in March asked all campuses “to plan for resuming normal operations for the Fall 2021 semester.” Thursday’s guidance says fully vaccinated people won’t have to socially distance or wear masks, while unvaccinated people “are strongly encouraged to continue” socially distancing and wearing a mask inside.

The universities are supposed to make sure vaccinations are available, but schools won’t be “responsible for assessing current COVID-19 vaccination rates for their institution.”

The university system said it had made the decisions in concert with the state Department of Public Health and that they were subject to change.

The Board of Regents insisted on at least some in-person instruction in the fall and spring semesters. Those moves came despite resistance from some employees.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland is ending its statewide mask mandate this weekend, following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday.

The mask mandate will end effective Saturday, the Republican governor said at a news conference.

In alignment with CDC guidance, face coverings will still be required on public transportation, and in schools, child care and health care settings, Hogan said.

The Maryland Department of Health has issued a public health advisory strongly recommending that all non-vaccinated individuals over the age of 2 continue to wear face coverings in all indoor settings and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Private businesses and workplaces can put in place their own policies. Local jurisdictions may continue to use their own emergency powers on these matters.

Earlier this week, the governor announced the lifting of restrictions on indoor and outdoor venues, including restaurants, that also will take effect on Saturday.

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NEW ORLEANS — People fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can take off their masks in most of New Orleans. And they can celebrate by dancing.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced the easing of the city mask mandate Friday following this week’s new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In New Orleans, masks will still be required in city government buildings, hospitals and K-12 schools, as well as on public transportation.

City health director Jennifer Avegno said more than half of city residents who are eligible have received the required number of vaccine shots.

Avegno also announced easing of another city restriction, saying vaccinated people can now dance at public venues.

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DOVER, Del. — Democratic Gov. John Carney said Friday that he will lift Delaware’s mask-wearing mandate effective May 21 after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing.

The move comes after the CDC issued new guidance Thursday saying that people who have been vaccinated can resume activities without wearing a mask or social distancing. The relaxed guidance does not apply to health care settings, prisons and homeless shelters, and it still calls for wearing masks while using public transportation.

The announcement prompted governors of several states, including North Carolina, to relax state mandates on mask wearing.

The lifting of Delaware’s mask mandate coincides with the easing of other COVID-19 restrictions effective next Friday that Carney formalized in an order he signed Wednesday. That order eliminated most business capacity restrictions and lifted a distancing requirement on school buses, while stilling requiring masks indoors.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says second doses of coronavirus vaccines will be accelerated in response to the rise of the virus variant first identified in India.

Johnson says people over age 50 can receive their second COVID-19 shot eight weeks after their first, rather than the previous 12 weeks. Current vaccines are expected to be effective against the virus variant known as B.1.617.2.

“I believe we should trust in our vaccines to protect the public whilst monitoring the situation as it develops very closely, because the race between our vaccination program and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter,” Johnson said. ”And it’s more important than ever, therefore, that people get the additional protection of a second dose.”

On Monday, Britain will ease lockdown measures for pubs and restaurants. Johnson couldn’t say “for sure” whether the final easing of all measures on June 21 will go ahead as planned.

Scottish authorities say Glasgow and the island of Moray won’t engage in the reopening on Monday because of higher infection levels.

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CINCINNATI — National grocery store chain Kroger says it will continue to require masks in its stores.

The Cincinnati-based company operates some 2,760 stores nationwide, including under other banners such as Ralphs, Dillons, Fry’s and King Soopers.

Spokesperson Sheila Regehr says in an email: “As we have throughout the pandemic, we are reviewing current safety practices, the CDC’s latest guidance, and soliciting feedback from associates to guide the next phase of our policy.” Kroger offers its workers $100 to get vaccinated.

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ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines will require new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting on Monday.

The airline won’t impose the same requirement on current employees, of whom more than 60% are vaccinated, a spokesman said Friday. The airline says the policy for new hires is designed to protect other employees and passengers as travel demand recovers from last year’s pandemic low levels.

Meanwhile, some airline stocks rose after the CDC’s new guidance for people who are fully vaccinated. United Airlines was up 4% in early Friday trading, and other U.S. airlines rose by smaller amounts.

The federal requirement for wearing face masks on planes remains in place. A spokesman for trade group Airlines for America says carriers will continue to enforce the rule.

The Transportation Security Administration announced 1.74 million people passed through U.S. airports on Thursday, a new pandemic-era high. However, those airport crowds were still 33% smaller than on the comparable day in 2019.

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BERLIN — Germany is putting the Britain back on a list of “risk areas” because of the emergence there of cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India.

Britain currently has a lower rate of coronavirus infections than Germany. But Germany’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, says the United Kingdom is going back on the list effective Sunday because of “the at least limited appearance” of the variant known as B.1.617.2.

The institute says Spain’s Canary Islands, a popular tourist destination, and the Spanish exclave of Ceuta in North Africa were being removed from the list of “risk areas,” the lowest of three levels of risk classification.

Under new rules this week, fully vaccinated people don’t need a test to enter Germany or to go into quarantine — unless they’re coming from somewhere designated as a “virus variant area” such as India or Brazil. Others coming from a “risk area” can avoid a mandatory 10-day quarantine by showing a negative test result.

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BOSTON — Neither Massachusetts nor Rhode Island made any immediate changes to their mask regulations after the CDC’s decision Thursday suggesting fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing in most settings.

A spokesperson for Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he “welcomes the new CDC guidance and will be updating Massachusetts’ COVID restrictions in the near future. In the meantime, the current mask order remains in place.” Massachusetts requires people to cover their faces while in indoor public places and outdoors if they are unable to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.

“We are going to review the CDC’s updated guidance on social distancing and masking and determine what the best approach is for Rhode Island,” state Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said.

Currently, the state requires people to wear masks in indoor public places, and outdoors when within 3 feet of others not in their immediate circle.

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