Gov. Hochul Lifts Statewide Mask Mandate for Businesses, Will Reassess for Schools on March 4
By Yehudit Garmaise
Gov. Kathy Hochul lifted, as of tomorrow, the statewide mask-or-vaccine requirement for indoor businesses "to let counties, cities, boroughs, and businesses make their own decisions on what they want to do on masking," she said.
"New Yorkers, this is what we have been waiting for: tremendous progress after two long years," said Gov. Hochul. "We are entering a new phase in the pandemic."
When asked whether average New Yorkers should mask when going into stores, the governor said people should depend on their “personal comfort levels, depending on their risks.
“People should use their judgment on what they feel is safe.
“I want to empower local cities, counties, businesses, and individuals. If they want to be more restrictive, as of tomorrow, they are at liberty to do so.”
On Dec. 10, 2021, after the highly contagious Omicron wave rolled into New York, causing COVID positivity rates to spike again, Gov. Hochul said she initiated the mask mandate as an “emergency temporary measure” because she did not want to shut down the state’s economy: a decision she said she stood behind, and she wished New York’s business owners “the best success.”
Just as Gov. Hochul issued the mask mandate for businesses to keep the economy going, she said masks in schools were the necessary safety measure that allowed the state’s children to return to in-person classrooms after a year of the isolation, depression, and poor education that took place as classes were held on Zoom.
The governor said she would reassess the state’s mandate on masking in schools on March 4, after children come back from their spring breaks, test on the days on which they return and three days, and after she analyzes the state’s rates of COVID positivity, hospitalization, and global COVID trends.
“We have to be realistic,” said the governor said that it was a “strong possibility” that the data could show that children could drop the masks on March 7. “This pandemic has not been declared over, and we are going to continue reassuring the people of this state that we are going to take the most thoughtful approach possible: based on data, metrics, and experts.”
When Gov. Hochul was asked why high school students, who have “a reasonable level of vaccination,” one reporter pointed out, would have to continue masking, while businesses and consumers do not, the governor said that “students sit together all day long in close proximity together.
“They go to lunch together. They are involved in gym class together.
“People in a workplace, however, have the ability for movement. Kids are in a very concentrated setting, and adults can make their own decisions.
“This is all about looking out for the health of our children.”
The masking requirements will remain for those who ride public transit, visit nursing homes, and other congregate settings and vulnerable populations.
Amtrak and airplane masking regulations, the governor said are decided by the federal government.
In terms of vaccine mandates in New York City for restaurants, fitness centers, and venues of indoor entertainment, Gov. Hochul said that Mayor Eric Adams said that he would wait to see what New York state decides.
When asked about the lawsuit brought against Gov. Hochul’s masking mandate, she said, “We are continuing to proceed in court because we will continue to maintain and demonstrate in a court of law that New York state and its Health Department have the power to protect the citizens of this state.
“That is questioned in the lawsuit, and I believe we will be victorious in establishing this very basic premise that has guided this state through a global pandemic.”