Photo: Don Pollard/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul on Flickr
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced New York will be following in the footsteps of New Jersey and California and dropping its indoor mask mandate. The mandate, which required all businesses to verify proof of full vaccination or require mask-wearing, was set to expire on Thursday. Masks will still be required in schools, childcare centers, health care facilities, and public spaces like subways, trains, buses, and airports.
Hochul’s announcement comes two days after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy lifted the mask mandate for schools on March 7. Similarly, Democratic governors in California, Connecticut, Delaware, and Oregon will remove their state’s mask mandates to varying degrees.
New York’s Covid-19 metrics have shown a significant decrease in positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths statewide since the Omicron variant’s peak in January. Additionally, the rate of vaccination is continuing upwards, with more New Yorkers receiving their booster.
According to Hochul, the 7-day average of positive tests is down to 3.67 percent, a significant decrease from the 23.2 percent rate it was at during January’s peak. Hochul also referenced the steep drop in hospitalizations, which are down 63 percent since mid-January.
After taking into consideration the steeply declining metrics, Hochul said she believes it is safe for the mandate to be lifted. Localities and businesses still have the ability to maintain the mask and vaccination requirements. In a press briefing, Hochul stated, the rule will “let counties, cities, and businesses make their own decisions on what they do with respect to masks and the vaccination requirement.”
Masks will also still be required in nursing homes, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and domestic violence shelters, according to Hochul.
A major obstacle that prevented the lifting of the mandate was the lack of vaccination among children, who weren’t eligible to receive their jab until recently. Since becoming eligible last November, 63 percent of children in New York City aged 5 to 17 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 53 percent being fully vaccinated, according to city data.
The state plans to reassess whether to mandate masks in schools in early March. Before and after this year’s winter break, the governor said the state will distribute at-home test kits to students.
- New York’s mask mandate is reinstated, for now
- Hochul announces Covid ‘surge plan 2.0’ as New York sees record number of daily cases
- All New York businesses will mandate masks indoors unless there’s a vaccine requirement