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On Wednesday, Democratic Governor of New York Kathy Hochul announced an end to New York’s indoor mask mandate for businesses, which required people to provide evidence of full vaccination status or wear a mask all the time inside.
The mandate was set to end on Thursday, and Hochul announced that she would, in fact, allow it to expire. Hochul’s mask policy has been met with pushback in the courts.
“It was an emergency temporary measure put in place only two months ago,” Hochul said on Wednesday. “At this time, we say that is the right decision to lift this mandate for indoor businesses and let counties, cities and businesses make their own decisions on what they want to do with respect to masks or the vaccination requirement.”
“That is why we feel comfortable to lift this in effect tomorrow,” Hochul said, per the New York Post.
“Numbers are coming down, and it is time to adapt,” she added, per The New York Times.
“Why is all this happening? Because New Yorkers and businesses stepped up and did the right thing,” Hochul said, per NBC News. “And I will always be grateful for them for being the reason these numbers have been declining.”
She noted, however, that private businesses and local jurisdictions might require masks if they want to do so.
”We want to make sure that every business knows this is your prerogative and individuals who want to continue wearing masks can continue wearing masks,” Hochul said. “And I suspect when I walk the streets of New York City … I’m still going to see a lot of people wearing masks because they will feel safer.”
The move could push workers to return to offices instead of staying remote and opting to not wear a mask at home. Some heads of businesses argued that the workplace mask mandate put off the return of employees to the workplace.
“People are operating fine remotely and they just don’t want to come back to the office wearing masks,” said Kathryn Wylde, the president and chief executive of Partnership for New York City, a large business organization, per The Times. “The feeling is they might as well be on Zoom. Assuming it’s safe, employers would be glad to get rid of the mask mandate and hope that it will encourage a broader return to the office.”
However, similar to other Democrat-run states that are lifting mandates, New York’s school mask mandate is still active. “State health officials said they expect to renew the regulation, which expires on Feb. 21, that gives them the authority to issue the mandate,” the Times noted.
Hochul also noted that the state would look at the situation the first week of March.
As NBC New York reported, “She later added there was a ‘strong possibility’ she could lift the school mask mandate as of March 7 if data looked good on March 4.”
“We’re not surrendering. This is not disarmament. We’re going to continue to be adaptable and responsive to the changing circumstances,” Hochul said, per CNBC. “But again, the trends are very, very, very positive.”
Masks will also still be mandated on certain transportation and health care locations. Additionally, “state regulated facilities that house a large group of vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes and childcare centers, will keep mask mandates,” per NBC News.
New York City officials are also still saying that people should wear masks even if there is no requirement.
“We are continuing to follow the science and the guidance of public health professionals to keep New Yorkers safe. We encourage all New Yorkers to continue to wear high-quality masks when indoors or in crowded spaces and to get vaccinated and boosted to stop the spread,” the mayor’s press secretary Fabien Levy said in a statement per NBC.