Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced her order requiring masks to be worn indoors throughout New York state will end on Thursday. Her “mask mandate” was implemented Dec. 10 in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus – particularly the delta and omicron variants. Hochul said infection numbers and related hospitalizations are now back to a pre-“winter surge” level, allowing a lessening of the restrictions.
Hochul said further requirements to wear a mask will be left to the counties, and then to cities and individual businesses.
The governor noted an assessment will be made in March with regard to masking in schools.
“New Yorkers, this is what we've been waiting for: tremendous progress after two long years, and we're not done. But this is trending in a very, very good direction, and that is why we are now approaching a new phase in this pandemic,” she said.
Hochul added, “We had a mask-or-vax requirement. For businesses. It was an emergency temporary measure put in place literally two months ago. And at this time, we say that is 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 the vaccination requirement, given the declining cases, given declining hospitalizations. That is why we feel comfortable to lift this in effect tomorrow.
“And I want to thank all the businesses and the county leaders and the health departments, in places as far away as Erie County, who did the right thing to help us get through this. I believe this has made a huge difference – and it gives also patrons of businesses the comfort to know that they are safe when they went into these stores during our most vulnerable time. We saw those numbers literally off the charts, and now those numbers are coming down and it is time to adapt.”
Hochul said masks are still required in high-risk areas and higher-risk, close-contact settings. That includes state-regulated adult care facilities, nursing homes and health care facilities; schools and child care facilities; homeless shelters; correctional facilities; and public transportation.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted: “New COVID cases and hospitalizations have dropped precipitously. In fact, less than 10% of all current hospital patients were admitted for COVID. Now that @GovKathyHochul has lifted her mask requirement for businesses, we will as well for public locations, effective tomorrow.
“While Erie Co.'s mask requirement for public locations is lifted, masks must still be worn by all county employees and our guests in county buildings through February. We will review conditions then to determine whether this county building order can be lifted for March.
“Thank you to @GovKathyHochul for her leadership and to all who came together to protect our neighbors during these recent Delta and Omicron waves, especially our businesses. I greatly appreciate every business that took action to protect their customers and our public.”
Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh said, “As the declining COVID-19 numbers in our weekly update show, we are clearly trending in the right direction and doing so quickly. With Gov. Hochul’s announcement today that the mask mandate for indoor businesses is now lifted, there is no public mask mandate in Niagara County as of tomorrow, including all county buildings, except for those under control of the court system.
“However, we are very disappointed that the governor not only failed to lift the mask mandate in schools, but did not identify a clear, definitive threshold for doing so. This will continue to frustrate many parents who believe we are well past the time for schools to resume a normal learning environment for students. The state taking another month to evaluate is wholly unnecessary.”