New York to Drop Indoor Mask Mandate

Carolyn Crist

February 09, 2022

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to drop New York's mask mandate on Wednesday.

The rule was set to expire on Thursday and would have required a renewal, The New York Times reported. It's not yet clear whether she will renew or drop the mask mandate for New York schools, which expires in 2 weeks.

New York joins several states that are soon ending mask mandates as the latest COVID-19 surge due to the Omicron variant subsides across the country. Officials in other Democratic-led states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Oregon, and New Jersey — announced on Monday that they would lift mask mandates for schools and other public spaces throughout February and March.

During Monday's briefings, governors and state health officials all cited the recent reduction in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The relaxation of mask rules has been seen as a shift toward treating the coronavirus as a part of everyday life.

But on Tuesday, the CDC pushed back. With cases still high nationwide, "now is not the moment" to drop mask mandates, Rochelle Walensky, MD, the CDC director, told Reuters.

"I know people are interested in taking masks off. I, too, am interested," she said. "That would be one marker that we have much of the pandemic behind us."

The CDC still recommends masks in areas with high COVID-19 transmission, which covers public indoor spaces in most parts of the country.

"Right now, our CDC guidance has not changed," she said. "We continue to endorse universal masking in schools."

Walensky said that she is "cautiously optimistic" that COVID-19 cases will fall below crisis levels soon but noted that she doesn't "think we're there right now." The U.S. is still reporting more than 250,000 cases per day and higher rates of hospitalization than during the peak of the Delta variant in 2021, Reuters reported.

Hochul's announcement on Wednesday is expected to end the requirement that businesses must always ask customers for proof of full vaccination or wear a mask, the Times reported. That means workplaces, retail shops, and restaurants could move toward a semblance of normalcy.

But the shift won't likely affect federal requirements in certain settings, meaning masks in health care facilities and transportation hubs such as airports, bus stations, and train terminals will still be required.

It's also unclear whether local governments will keep their own mask mandates, the newspaper reported. For instance, New York City requires proof of vaccination for indoor dining, events, gyms, and movies. The city's executive order must be renewed every 5 days, and city officials said Tuesday that the order was being renewed.

Sources:

The New York Times: "Dropping Indoor Mask Mandate, New York Joins Blue States Easing Covid Rules."

Reuters: "U.S. CDC stands by K-12 school masking guidance as states relax rules — Walensky."

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