Apple will drop its mask mandate in most of its stores around the U.S., the company said Tuesday. It will also bring back its popular in-store device classes. The news is one more sign of a slow drift back to a new form of normal in business operations.
The changes follow the abandonment of mask mandates in a number of states around the country, many of which abandoned such mandates in the past few weeks. Some of the states in which Apple customers will no longer be required to wear a mask include Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgia. The Apple website has been updated to indicate the latest masking guidelines at stores in each state, including stores for which masks are still a requirement.
As recently as December, Apple had reinstated a nationwide mask mandate in its stores as cases rose amid the omicron surge.
Some mask rules still separately apply to Apple’s retail workers. Employees said they will continue to be required to wear masks when working in stores, according to a report by Bloomberg. And though no longer required at all stores, the company will still recommend customers wear masks and have them available if needed.
The latest softening of mask requirements has continued even as the CDC still recommends people wear masks when indoors to protect themselves and others. The mixed guidance from states and the CDC has left the final call on masks up to businesses, in a return to an unsettled earlier stage of the pandemic.
Apple has deferred indefinitely a plan for corporate workers to return to the office. An earlier return-to-office plan specified mask-wearing. Santa Clara County, where Apple's Cupertino headquarters is located, continues to require indoor masking, even though the state of California has dropped its mandate.
The Apple Park Visitor Center adjacent to Apple's headquarters still requires masks, according to Apple's website.