New York mask mandate to expire, but not in school

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 for now.

The mask mandate for places 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 order.

“Given the declining cases, given the declining hospitalizations, that is why we feel comfortable to lift this, in effect tomorrow,” Hochul said.

“This fight is not over, we’re not surrendering. This is not disarmament,” she added, “but again the trends are very, very positive.”

Hochul had been hinting that she would let the mandate lapse. Other Democratic governors have taken similar steps in recent days, ending masking rules in public places or in schools. The White House has also signaled it is beginning to prepare for a less-restrictive phase of the national COVID response.

Masks will still be required in some places in New York, including in health care facilities, certain types of shelters and public transit. Private businesses will also be free to set their own masking rules for employees and customer

Hochul said the state will revisit the question of whether to continue requiring masks in schools the first week in March, after many children return to classrooms following planned winter breaks.

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