PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee has scheduled a briefing for Wednesday afternoon to provide an update on the state’s masking policies.

He’ll be joined by R.I. Department of Health Interim Director Dr. Jim McDonald, Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green and other state leaders.

12 News plans to stream the 1:30 p.m. briefing live on

McKee’s office said the governor is reviewing the statewide mask mandate for schools as other states have moved to end theirs and Rhode Island’s COVID-19 data continues to show improvement.

The current mask mandate lasts until Feb. 14 and can only continue beyond that if McKee is given an extension on his emergency powers by the General Assembly.

House and Senate committees voted Tuesday to approve a bill extending those powers by 45 days, which would allow McKee to keep executive orders related to the pandemic in place if he deems them necessary.

The full House and Senate are expected to vote on the legislation Thursday.

Bob Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI), told 12 News the teachers union will follow the state’s lead on the issue.

“If the governor’s emergency powers weren’t extended, then we are back to all the districts working under their approved plans, which requires masking,” Walsh said.

Districts could change their reopening plans to eliminate the mask mandate, Walsh noted, but that would require local approval.

According to a recent poll by the Hassenfeld Institute at Bryant University, 78% of Rhode Island public school parents who responded support students wearing masks while in class.

Many teachers, parents and even students shared their opinions on the universal mask mandate during Tuesday night’s Council on Elementary and Secondary Education meeting.

“Let those who wish to be masked stay masked and let those who wish to breathe air freely do so,” one parent said.

“Most students wear their masks out of force and not fear,” a student added. “If given the choice, most students would not wear one.”

The South Kingstown School Committee voted Tuesday night to make masking optional in schools if McKee decides not to extend the mandate further.

New COVID-19 data released Tuesday by the Health Department showed infections and hospitalizations are trending significantly downward since peaking in early January. The state’s weekly positivity rate fell from 12.2% on Jan. 31 to 8.4% on Feb. 7, while there were almost 100 fewer hospital admissions week over week.

The rate of community transmission was down to 462 new cases per 100,000 people over the previous seven days, which is the lowest it’s been since the beginning of December. From Jan. 6 through Jan. 16, the rate was above 3,000 new cases per 100,000 people over the prior seven days.

The Health Department also reported 418 new positive cases, a 5.7% daily positivity rate and two additional COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday. Those cases pushed the state’s cumulative total past 350,000 since the start of the pandemic.

As of Sunday, there were 288 COVID-19 patients in Rhode Island’s hospitals, which is the fewest since Dec. 10.