New York on Wednesday became the latest Democratic-led state to announce lifting the indoor mask mandate for businesses. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the mandate will not be renewed when it expires Thursday, and that it would be up to individual cities and businesses whether they wanted to continue requiring masks indoors.
However, the mask order will remain in place for now in schools.
The mandate requiring face coverings in most closed public places, such as grocery stores, retail stores, and offices, came into effect on December 10 when the Omicron variant of the virus began infecting large numbers of people. New Yorkers. It was scheduled to expire on Thursday unless the Democratic administration extended it.
Speaking from his office in New York City, Hochul said infection rates have since dropped to a level where it’s safe to rescind the sweeping mask order.
“Given the drop in cases, given the drop in hospitalizations, that’s why we feel comfortable lifting this, in effect tomorrow,” the Democratic governor said. And she added: “This fight is not over, we are not giving up. This is not a disarmament (…) But again the trends are very, very positive”.
Hochul had been hinting for several days that he would rescind the mandate as infection rates have dropped.
Nevertheless, masks will remain mandatory in some places, such as health centers, certain types of shelters, and public transport. Private companies will also be able to set their standards for staff and customers.
Hochul said the state will revisit the question of whether to continue requiring masks in schools in the first week of March after many children return to classrooms after winter break scheduled for late February.
He also announced that millions of COVID-19 tests will be distributed to schoolchildren, with the intention that children undergo tests after the holidays. Data from those tests will help inform the state’s next steps.
“After the holidays, after the children are tested, we are going to evaluate in the first week of March,” Hochul said.
The governor had previously said she would like to see children’s vaccination rates improve before she scraps that state mandate, which has been in place since August.
New York’s broader mask rule kicked in as Omicron cases began to skyrocket. It was initially scheduled to expire weeks ago but had been extended twice as state officials waited for the surge to subside.
There was an exception for people who cannot medically tolerate a face covering or mask. Public places or workplaces that required vaccination as a condition of entry were also exempt.
Hochul met Tuesday with school administrators and teachers’ unions to discuss when and how the state could ease the masking mandate in schools.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend universal masking in schools.
Some 5,000 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in hospitals across the state as of Monday. This figure is down from a peak of nearly 12,700 on January 11 but is still double the number of hospitalized patients on November 21.