In a sign of the cautious sense of normalcy growing in the U.S., the number of schools where mask mandates are in place has fallen below the number of those without them for the first time in two years.

According to the school tracking site Burbio, as of Tuesday, the number of school districts that are requiring students to continue to mask up has fallen to 219 compared to the 261 that have done away with the mandate. Put another way, the percentage of those requiring masks is now at 43.8% versus the 52.2% of those that do not and the 4% with partial mandates.

Mask mandates in schools started as a necessity to protect students from COVID-19 as they returned to the classroom after well over a year of remote learning. As the economy reopened, more parents fretted over childcare concerns as they were called back to the workplace and local governments grappled with how to address this safely.

Initially, the resistance to mask mandates was centered in Republican-led states, most notably Florida. Governors went as far as to ban school mask mandates and in some cases threaten to cut funding for non-compliant districts. These bans were challenged successfully in several court cases, but the trend took off with the bulk of mandate-free districts appearing in red states.

In Democrat-dominated blue states, the abandonment of masking rules has been slower. While mayors like those in New York City and Chicago were keen to end remote learning, viewing it as harmful in the long run for children, they ran into resistance from teachers’ unions that worried about the safety of their members and students alike. Closer to the present, blue-state governors in New Jersey, Delaware, and New York have moved to end mandates, but leave discretion to local jurisdictions intact.

The shift away from tighter masking restrictions in and outside of schools reflects Americans’ changing attitudes towards COVID-19, particularly the Omicron variant.

According to a recent poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only 24% of Americans say they are “extremely” or “very” worried about themselves or a family member contracting COVID-19, down from 36% in both December and January after the Omicron surge.

Yet the issue of masks in schools itself remains divisive. In a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 43% of parents said that they favor maintaining mask restrictions.