Mask Mandates Return: Full List of Places With Restrictions in Place
With COVID-19 hospitalizations steadily inching up in the U.S. this summer, some hospitals, schools and businesses are reinstating mask mandates.
Two new COVID-19 variants—EG.5 and BA.2.86—have recently emerged. The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the former as a "variant of interest" earlier in August, but reported that its risk to global public health is low.
The latter variant has only been reported in the U.S., the U.K., Denmark, South Africa and Israel as of August 23, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In a risk assessment summary, the CDC wrote that the BA.2.86 variant may be more likely to infect people with existing immunity to COVID-19, either from vaccinations or prior infections, than previous variants.
As the new variants of COVID-19 spread, hospital admissions are rising—there were at least 15,000 in the week ending August 19—but they remain a far cry from past peaks.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, masks were widely used as a method of limiting the spread of the virus, especially before vaccinations were available—and mandates drew anti-mask protests in some places.
While it's unlikely that the country will see a return of widespread mask mandates any time soon, some places are bringing back pandemic-era requirements temporarily in response to recent spikes in COVID-19 cases.
Here, Newsweek rounds up places where masking is currently required.
Morris Brown College
The historically Black university in Atlanta reinstated its COVID-19 mask mandate and other restrictions for two weeks due to reports of positive cases among students.
All students and employees are required to wear face and masks for 14 days from August 20, President Dr. Kevin James said in a letter that was posted on social media. The college is also imposing restrictions on the size of gatherings, and parties and large student events are banned for the two-week period.
"We prioritize your safety and seek your cooperation in preventing another pandemic," James wrote.
Some employees at Lionsgate headquarters in Los Angeles are being required to wear masks after some cases were reported.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health "is requiring Lionsgate employees on the 3rd & 5th floors of our 2700 Colorado Avenue headquarters in Santa Monica to wear masks due to a cluster of COVID cases," Peter Wilkes, chief communications officer for the company, told ABC News.
"It is the policy of the LA County Department of Health to require masking in workplaces that have a cluster of cases."
Kaiser Permanente in California
The healthcare company is requiring staff, patients and visitors to wear masks at its Santa Rosa hospital and medical offices in northern California.
The requirement is due to a rise in the number of patients testing positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks.
"Kaiser Permanente is committed to protecting the safety of our members, patients, employees, physicians and visitors, which includes taking appropriate steps to prevent the spread of transmissible infectious diseases in our facilities," the company said in a statement to Newsweek.
"Respiratory protection and the use of masking is an important component in keeping our health care workers, physicians and patients safe."
United Health Services in New York
The New York health system reinstated mask requirements at its facilities on August 23.
"Because of an uptick in COVID-19 cases, masks are once again required in all clinical areas at UHS Wilson Medical Center, UHS Binghamton General Hospital, UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital and UHS Delaware Valley Hospital, as well as primary and specialty care sites," United Heath Services wrote on its website. "The new policy is in effect immediately for all patients, visitors, employees, medical staff, volunteers, students and vendors."
Auburn Community Hospital, New York
The hospital brought back its mask mandate just a month after announcing its end.
"Face coverings are mandatory inside our facilities, regardless of your immunization status," the hospital says on its website. "If you do not arrive with one or yours is deemed inappropriate, a mask will be provided to you. It must be worn at all times and must cover your nose and mouth."
Upstate Medical's hospitals in Syracuse, New York
Both of Upstate Medical's hospitals in Syracuse—University and Community General—reinstated mandatory masking on August 17 after an uptick in COVID cases.
"Effective immediately, mandatory masking is required by all staff, visitors and patients in clinical areas of Upstate University Hospital, Upstate Community Hospital and ambulatory clinical spaces," said a memo sent to Upstate staff that was obtained by syracuse.com.
"Clinical areas are defined as any location patients gather, wait, transport through, or receive care. Masking is strongly recommended in all non-clinical areas."
Update 8/30/23, 4 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to add a statement from Kaiser Permanente.Morris Brown CollegeLionsgate Kaiser Permanente in CaliforniaUnited Health Services in New YorkAuburn Community Hospital, New YorkUpstate Medical's hospitals in Syracuse, New York