Feb 9, 2022 - Health

New York drops indoor mask mandate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) speaking in Albany in January 2021.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) speaking in Albany in January 2021. Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Wednesday the state will drop its indoor mask mandate and a requirement that businesses ask customers for proof of vaccination starting Thursday.

Why it matters: New York joins several other blue states in seeking normalcy and rolling back restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, as cases rapidly wane after peaking in January from the Omicron variant.

What they're saying: "At this time, we say it is the right decision to lift this mandate for indoor business, and let counties, cities and businesses to make their own decisions on what they want to do with respect to masks or the vaccination requirement," Hochul said during a press conference on Wednesday.

  • "Given the declining cases, the declining hospitalizations, we feel comfortable to lift this in effect tomorrow," she added.
  • "However, we want to make sure that every business knows this is your prerogative. And individuals who want to continue wearing masks, continue wearing masks."
  • "I expect that when I walk the streets of New York City, as I often do, I'm still going to see a lot of people wearing masks because they feel safer. And that is something that they are welcomed and encouraged to do."

Hochul said the mask mandate will continue at schools, state health care facilities, correctional faculties, on busses and trains and in airports, which are regulated by the federal government.

  • The state's school masking policy is set to expire on Feb. 21.
  • Hochul added that the state may evaluate the school mask mandate after students return from midwinter break, which ends on Feb. 25.

The big picture: The Democratic governors of New Jersey, California, Delaware and Connecticut all announced this week that their states would end either indoor or school masks mandates.

Go deeper: Virginia Supreme Court dismisses parents' lawsuit against Youngkin's school mask order

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional details throughout.

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