On Feb. 9 New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that effective Thursday, Feb. 10 the state wide mask mandate for businesses will be lifted but will remain optional for counties, cities and businesses that chose to continue to implement the measure and the mandate remains in effect for schools.
At a press conference Hochul said, “At this time, we say that it’s the right decision to lift this mandate for indoor businesses and let counties, cities and businesses to make their own decisions on what they want to do with respect to mask or vaccination requirement,” the New York Post reported.
The announcement comes as New York state emerges from a deadly wave of Omicron cases. As of Feb. 7 the state has recorded 4,281 new cases of COVID-19 after testing a total of 99,004 people.
New York City is expected to keep the mandate in place and it is still recommending that people wear masks, The Post reported.
The mandate was put in place on Dec. 10 last year which ordered Empire State businesses without vaccination requirements to force workers, customers and visitors to wear masks in the majority of public indoor settings, including grocery stores, shops and offices.
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Hochul is facing mounting pressure to lift the school mask mandate as well. She has said that she will be assessing the situation and will consider lifting the mandate after the first week of March, following the return of students to classrooms after the mid-winter break.
New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, said earlier this week that the daily positivity rate in New York public schools was below 1 percent.
Hochul’s announcement comes as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voices concerns about potential surges in cases of COVID-19.
Currently the U.S. is recording over 270,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 primarily driven by the milder Omicron variant.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has said that “now is not the moment” for states to drop mask mandates. Walensky said, “I know people are interested in taking masks off. I too am interested. That would be one marker that we have much of the pandemic behind us,” the International Business Times reported.
Walensky has asserted that the CDC will leave current guidelines around masking unchanged and stands with schools that are endorsing mask mandates. “We have and continue to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission, that is essentially everywhere in the country in public indoor settings,” she said.
According to CDC data, people in more than 3,200 counties — 99 percent of the country — should continue to wear masks “regardless of their vaccination status” NBC news reported. The CDC is suggesting that people continue to wear masks when new case rates are higher than 50 cases per 100,000 people.
Hochul’s announcement also follows California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that California’s mask mandate will be lifted for vaccinated individuals beginning on Feb. 15.
New Jersey, Delaware, Oregon and Connecticut have all announced that as of Monday, Feb. 14 masks will no longer be required in schools.