ALBANY, N.Y. — 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.
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.
Hochul had been hinting for several days that she would let the mandate lapse as infection rates have fallen.
Masks, though, will still be required in many places, including in health care facilities and in schools.
Hochul has said she would like to see vaccination rates for children improve before she does away with that statewide mandate, which has been in place since August.
New York’s broader masking rule was put in place as omicron cases began to soar. It was initially set to expire weeks ago, but had been extended twice while state officials waited for the wave to subside.
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.
Hochul met Tuesday with school administrators and teacher unions to talk about when and how the state might ease the school masking mandate.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends universal masking in schools.
About 5,000 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in hospitals statewide as of Monday. That’s below a peak of nearly 12,700 on Jan. 11, but still double the amount of patients hospitalized Nov. 21.
By Marina Villeneuve, Associated Press