New York State to Drop Indoor Mask Mandate

NY Gov. Hochul satisfied with COVID trends on hospital capacity and positivity rates.

UPDATE—WATCH HOTCHUL’S LATEST BRIEFING:

UPDATE—FROM ASSOCIATED PRESS:

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that the state will end a COVID-19 mandate requiring face coverings in most indoor public settings, but will keep masking rules in place in schools for now.

The mandate requiring face coverings in most indoor public settings, like grocery stores, shops and offices, was put in place Dec. 10 as the omicron variant of the virus began infecting huge numbers of New Yorkers. It was set to expire Thursday unless the Democrat’s administration extended it.

Speaking from her office in New York City, Hochul said infection rates have since declined to a level where it is safe to rescind the broad masking order.

“Given the declining cases, given the declining hospitalizations, that is why we feel comfortable to lift this, in effect tomorrow,” Hochul said.

“This fight is not over, we’re not surrendering. This is not disarmament,” she added, “but again the trends are very, very positive.”

Masks, though, will still be required in some places, including in health care facilities, certain types of shelters and public transit. Private businesses will also be free to set their own masking rules for staff and patrons.

Hochul said the state will revisit the question of whether to continue requiring masks in schools the first week in March, after many children return to classrooms following planned winter breaks in late February.

She said millions of COVID-19 tests would be distributed to schoolchildren, with the intent that kids get tested after the break. Data from those tests will help inform the state’s next steps.

“After the break, after we have kids tested, we’re going to make an assessment in the first week of March,” Hochul said.

There was an exception for people who can’t medically tolerate a face covering or mask. Public places or workplaces that required vaccination as a condition of entry were also exempt.

QUICK FACTS:
  • New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday will announce the end of her state’s mask mandate for most indoor public places, The New York Times reported.
  • The Democratic governor will let the mask mandate expire, not seeking to renew it.
  • The mandate had required face coverings in most indoor public settings, like grocery stores, shops, and offices.
  • However, CBS news radio reported on Wednesday that the New York governor intends to keep the school mask mandate in place for now.
  • The mandate, put in place in mid-December, is set to expire Thursday, according to The Associated Press.
NY STUDENTS MIGHT STILL HAVE TO MASK, THOUGH:
  • Gov. Hochul met with school administrators and teacher unions on Tuesday to discuss when and how the state might ease school mask mandates.
  • It remains unclear whether Hochul’s administration would renew or drop a separate compulsory masking rule in New York public schools that is due to lapse in two weeks, Reuters notes.
  • New York State Department of Health spokesperson Jill Montag said Monday that regulation is “expected to be renewed” for now, AP reports.
BACKGROUND:
  • Gov. Hochul joins leaders in several other Democratic-led states, such as New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Delaware, and Oregon, who also recently announced they would be lifting mask mandates for schools and other public settings in the coming weeks.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends universal masking in schools, AP notes.