Even as many states begin to get rid of mask mandates, Apple is trying an update that will allow iPhone users to unlock their devices while wearing a face covering.
Apple’s iOS 15.4 update hopes to ensure the feature can work without requiring the owner to remove their mask, nearly two full years into the pandemic.
However, the feature remains in beta and may not reach the public for weeks or even months.
A CNN tech reporter tried the new Face ID feature with several different face masks and found the experience “inconsistent”.
Apple said that because Face ID with a mask uses less biometric information, there will be times when a user will not be as easily recognized as when their full face is visible and therefore a user may need to enter their password.
“Despite unlocking the device in incognito mode with sunglasses and a hat on my first try, repeating this exploit was also random,” wrote CNN’s Samantha Murphy Kelly.
People wear face masks when taking photos in Times Square
Face masks have made it harder for users to unlock their iPhones
“Apple later told me that the software update was intended to work with glasses but may work with sunglasses in certain situations where Face ID may collect enough information to identify a user,” said she added.
“However, it is designed to work with a hat. Pairing the two worked about half the time.
Facial recognition software usually only works by combining several different facial features to create a cohesive image.
A world where masks are worn all the time has forced Apple and other tech giants to focus on using the eyes and nose only for identification functions.
In 2021, Apple Watch used a partial solution allowing people to authenticate without losing the mask.
Most facial recognition software uses multiple features of a person’s face to create a consistent image.
CNN reporter tests new tech to open an iPhone while wearing a mask
It comes just days after California’s top health official said he “expects” to be able to drop the state’s controversial school mask policy within two weeks.
The move would see the Golden State join a growing list of blue states that are breaking ranks with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Biden administration on masks — which have yet to budge despite the daily drop in Covid infections across the country.
“The masking requirements were never put in place to be there forever… it’s not a question of if. It’s a matter of when,’ said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Department of Health and Human Services.
Reports indicate that a decision could be made soon. Many school districts in California have a vacation week in February, either this week – from the 14th to the 18th – or the following week, from the 21st to the 25th. mask are lifted.
Some other states are also beginning to heed calls from parents and the wider community. Last week, Connecticut and Massachusetts both put plans in place to lift their school mask mandates on February 28.
Neighboring Delaware did the same last week. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said scream box last week that the decision of the northeastern states was made in tandem.
Other states such as Illinois, New Jersey and New York also eased mask orders last week, but did not remove face coverings from schools.
Covid cases have plummeted in all 50 US states over the past two weeks and have halved over the period in 46 of them.
Oklahoma in Nebraska is seeing the biggest declines, with both seeing daily infections drop more than 80% in the past 14 days. Oklahoma was one of the last US states to still record an upward trend during the Omicron surge.
In 17 states, cases have dropped more than 70% in the past two weeks. These astronomical numbers will likely start to decline soon, as Covid cases will start to hit such low points that they will likely level off soon.
Fatalities are finally starting to move in the right direction as well. The figure, which often lags cases by a few weeks, has flattened recently and is now showing the first signs of a downward trend.
The United States is currently averaging 2,365 Covid deaths per day, a decrease of 6% over the past week. The figure has hovered between 2,400 and 2,500 in recent weeks and is now showing the first signs that it will start to decline.
Only three US states still have more than one daily Covid death per 100,000 people. Each is a southern state with low vaccination rates.
Mississippi is still the national leader in Covid mortality. Magnolia State is seeing 1.76 Covid deaths every day per 100,000 people — by far the highest rate of any state. It also only vaccinated 51% of residents, one of the lowest rates in the country.
West Virginia, which only vaccinated 56% of residents, and Arkansas, with a vaccination rate of 53%, also have high Covid death rates.