More states are dropping mask mandates, and omicron affects deer too; plus more COVID news

As many states see declines in their daily Covid-19 case numbers and hospitalization rates, some have moved forward with plans to lift a significant mitigation measure: mask mandates in schools.

The moves go against guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the agency has remained mum about the states’ decisions, simply telling CNN on Monday that it still recommends universal masking for all in schools.

New York’s governor and health officials are deciding whether to end or extend two COVID-19 mask mandates, one requiring face coverings in schools, the other mandating them in most other public indoor settings, like grocery stores, shops and offices.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, plans to announce Wednesday which rules will stay in place as the state emerges from a deadly wave of cases, fueled by the omicron variant.

And, a bipartisan majority in the Virginia Senate voted Tuesday to advance legislation that would ban public school systems from imposing mask requirements on students.

The move comes as Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s efforts to end mask mandates by executive order are bogged down in legal challenges.

When New York City’s COVID-19 rates spiked last December due to the emerging omicron variant, humans weren’t the only mammals affected.

The highly infectious variant also hit the white-tailed deer population on Staten Island, the most suburban of the city’s five boroughs, according to a study led by Penn State University scientists.

Across the U.S., the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has tumbled more than 28% over the past three weeks to about 105,000 on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the ebbing of the omicron surge has left in its wake postponed surgeries, exhausted staff members and uncertainty over whether this is the last big wave or whether another one lies ahead.

Though the Omicron coronavirus variant may have a reputation for causing a much milder form of Covid-19, in January, Dr. Ashley Keilman and other doctors started noticing something that seemed unique to this variant.

“We were seeing more patients with croup, and more patients were testing positive for Covid, which was something that we had not observed during earlier phases of previous surges with Covid,” said Keilman, a specialist in pediatric emergency medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital.