The state of New York will drop its mask mandate for schools, and New York City is expected to follow close behind.
New York Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul first announced on Sunday that she would be lifting the statewide school mask mandate beginning on Wednesday, March 2nd.
“With more New Yorkers getting vaccinated, and the steady decline over the past several weeks in cases and hospitalizations from Omicron, we are now entering a new phase of the pandemic,” Hochul said in a statement. “Because New Yorkers have stepped up, we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools. This is a huge step forward for our kids and communities and I am grateful to the students, educators and parents for their dedication to keeping us all safe—we’ve reached this milestone because of your hard work.”
In a press release announcing the move, the governor’s office said that it made the decision to lift requirements because of continuing positive trends in COVID-19, and “after consulting with health and education experts, as well as parents, teachers and school administrators.” The press release said that New York has the highest full vaccination rate for adults and teenagers among large states and the second-highest for children aged 5-11. The state has also seen a 98 percent drop in new COVID-19 cases, with a 51-day downward trend, and a substantial drop in both cases and hospitalizations among children.
The state also said it made the decision after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for mask-wearing. The Daily Wire reported Friday that the CDC changed the metrics it would be using to determine when and where people should wear masks. The new guidelines are based on three factors: new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days; new COVID-19-related hospital admissions; and the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.
In addition to the statewide lifting of mask restrictions, New York City is expected to end its own set of mask requirements for schools. The New York Times reported Sunday that Democratic Mayor Eric Adams would eliminate its mask mandates for schools as well as its vaccine mandates for indoor spaces such as restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters by March 7 if the city’s present trends of new COVID-19 cases remain low. Adams said he would make a final decision by Friday in order to give business owners time to adapt, the NYT reported. The vaccine mandate was imposed by former Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio in December.
New York is the latest in a growing number of blue states that are ending their mask mandates for students in schools. The Daily Wire reported on Monday that the states of Washington, Oregon, and California would lift their mask mandates on March 11th. New York’s neighbor state, New Jersey, also announced an end to its own mandates. Democratic Governor Phil Murphy said last week that the mandate for students would be lifted on March 7th, and the mandate for state offices “in the relatively near future.” Murphy also announced that he would give his final COVID-19 briefing on March 4.