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On March 30, Arkansas became the seventh state to lift its former requirement for residents to wear masks and face coverings in public buildings, on public transportation, and when social distancing of six feet or more is not possible.

Thirty three states and the District of Columbia have a mask mandate in place. The states that have chosen to reverse their mandates over the past few months are Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming, with several other states planning to join them in the first half of April, according to the AARP.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said he will continue to wear his mask, even though he has been vaccinated, and urged Arkansas residents to do the same. He also asked the public to respect mask requirements at local businesses, venues, and schools, according to U.S. News and World Report. The lifting of statewide mask mandates means that face covering requirements will be at the discretion of businesses and private entities—as will enforcement of those requirements.

The recent mask mandate reversals come at a time when cases of COVID-19 are rising in some areas of the country. The emergence of new, more contagious strains as well as the relaxing of previous COVID-related restrictions are causing cases to go up in places like Florida, New York, and Michigan, reports the New York Times. The United States is averaging more than 63,000 new cases each day, which represents a 15 percent increase from two weeks ago, but is still below the case count from early this year, according to the Times.

What does that mean for air quality in public buildings? The SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 is generally spread through large respiratory droplets emitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes, but it can also be transmitted through tiny particles in the air. The CDC has recommended masks and face coverings as an effective way to prevent these droplets from circulating in shared spaces. A lifting of mask mandates means that individuals who share space in a public building may find themselves more at risk of coming into contact with infected respiratory droplets and more susceptible to becoming infected with the virus.

The CDC has recommended several strategies for reducing the risk of transmission in buildings. These include natural ventilation through open doors and windows, social distancing, air filters, and proper HVAC maintenance and testing to ensure pathogens are not spreading between rooms. You can access the complete list of CDC recommendations for businesses and workplaces here.

Life Balance Technologies helps hospitals and other companies easily analyze air quality conditions and effectively manage their HVAC systems. By streamlining the process for compliance, auditing, and reporting, we help reduce costs and save lives.