Updated on March 15. Click here to see interactive mask mandate map.
Updated on March 4. Click here to see interactive mask mandate map.
When schools reopened after being shut down in 2020 due to Covid concerns, mask mandates were among the most common virus prevention measures enacted in classrooms across America.
The mandates were met with mixed reception by dioceses across the United States – some welcomed the requirements, while others voiced objections or launched legal challenges to them.
With the Omicron variant of the virus now waning, many states are lifting their mask requirements - and dioceses are following suit. But mask mandates are still in place in some areas, leaving a patchwork of mask policies in Catholic schools across the country.
A Pillar review of diocesan policies across the country found that most dioceses do not currently have a diocese-wide mask mandate in place for Catholic schools. Instead, many dioceses have left mask mandates up to the leadership of individual schools, resulting in differing requirements even within dioceses themselves.
Of the U.S. dioceses for which data is available, the overwhelming majority have dropped their diocese-wide mask requirements. Nearly every diocese with a mask mandate still in place as of March 1 is located in a state where the government still requires masks indoors, such as Hawaii and New York.
Some exceptions exist. The Diocese of Laredo is a notable anomaly in the state of Texas, where mask mandates are rare. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Laredo told The Pillar by email “We currently require ALL students, staff and visitors on Catholic School grounds to wear masks. In addition to the mask mandate we have protocols in place to prevent schools from becoming sources of infection for our students.”
Asked about their mask policies, the Archdiocese of New York and Diocese of San Jose both clarified that they did not set their own school policies, but were subject to ongoing government mask mandates. The Archdiocese of New York has announced that it will change its policy from masks required to masks optional when the state lifts its mask mandate on March 2.
In other areas, the opposite is true. Schools in Iowa are forbidden by law from issuing mask mandates, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Davenport said. In the Diocese of Sioux Falls, the bishop forbade mask mandates at Catholic schools at the start of the school year.
The Archdiocese of Washington, which covers territory in both Washington, D.C. and Maryland, has mask mandates in place only in schools within the District of Columbia, while those in the state of Maryland are no longer subject to them.
As states continue to revisit their mask policies, it is likely that many of the remaining dioceses subject to mask mandates will see those regulations lifted in the coming weeks. The Pillar will periodically update its coverage of diocesan schools and mask mandates.