Gov. Hochul Expected to Lift Mask Mandate Today

Gov. Hochul Expected to Lift Mask Mandate Today

By Yehudit Garmaise

Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to drop her statewide mask-or-vaccine mandate for businesses today, as COVID positivity rates return to levels seen in early November, before the Omicron wave.

“We are improving in terms of lower positive cases, hospitalizations, and infection rates statewide," said Gov. Hochul, who continues to promote vaccinations and boosters.

When Omicron started to spread like wildfire in late November 2021, on Dec. 10, 2021, Gov. Hochul issued a requirement that businesses ask customers for proof of full vaccination or require them to wear masks, although she said local health agencies would enforce the mandate, and few seemed to comply.

The statewide mandate for students, teachers, and staff in schools to continue masking expires in two weeks, but likely will remain in place until sometime after the end of February.

If Gov. Hochul says New Yorkers no longer have to wear face coverings, she will join the New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, California, and Oregon governors, who have all announced plans to lift mask mandates in the next few weeks.

"Balancing public health with getting back to some semblance of normalcy is not easy. But we can responsibly take this step due to declining COVID numbers and growth in vaccinations," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said on Twitter, when he announced that New Jersey would lift remove its mask mandate for schoolchildren on March 7.

Many elected officials, such as California Gov. Gavin Newson, who was one of the first to quickly enforce lockdowns and masking early in the pandemic and is dropping the state’s indoor mask mandate on Feb. 15, are now signaling they are preparing their constituents to adjust to life with COVID as a daily risk.

“This is not a declaration of victory as much as an acknowledgment that we can responsibly live with this thing,” Gov. Murphy said on Monday.

President Joe Biden, however, continues to promote masking.

“Our responsibility as the federal government is to rely on the data and the science that is being analyzed by our public health experts,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said recently.

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