Mask mandates fall in some states, remain in others; Britain lockdown eases as vaccine rollout works: Latest COVID-19 updates

Mask mandates are being struck down by some states and businesses across the nation following a shift in CDC guidance that says fully vaccinated Americans can discard masks outdoors and, in many situations, indoors.

It’s a landmark change that has generated praise, criticism and confusion. Just a few months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doubled down on mask guidance, touting the effectiveness of double masking as more contagious variants of the virus spread.

But the change in federal guidance was motivated by the effectiveness of vaccines that are now widely available across the nation. Cases in the US have plummeted to their lowest rates since September.

The nation’s response to the the shift has been both swift and fragmented, with some states quickly matching the federal guidelines and others keeping mask mandates in place for now. Shoppers across the nation will also encounter stores with differing rules, as some retailers have kept mask mandates in place.

Also in the news:

►Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Costco will not require customers who are fully vaccinated to wear a mask, but none will require proof of vaccination. Other major major retailers and restaurant chains, like Starbucks, Target, CVS and Kroger, are keeping their mask requirements for now but said they will reevaluate policies. Keep track here.

► U.S. travelers are booking flights in record numbers. And if you’re planning to fly soon, you’ll want to prepare before jetting off on your own adventure. Keep reading to learn more about what to expect and how flying could impact your personal finances.

► Britain is finally ending months of tough lockdown restrictions, thanks to an efficient vaccination program. Starting Monday, all restaurants and bars in England can reopen with some precautions in place, as can hotels, theaters and museums.

►Japan is further expanding a coronavirus state of emergency from six areas, including Tokyo, to nine as the government repeated its determination to hold the Olympics in just over two months.

? Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 585,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 161.9 million cases and 3.3 million deaths. More than 341 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and more than 268 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 120 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 36% of the population.

? What we’re reading: As India reels from a new variant and a second wave of COVID-19, its health care system is overwhelmed. And so are its citizens, grappling with the physical, mental and emotional onslaught of caretaking and loss.

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