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NY State lifts mask-or-vaccine requirement

Staff Report

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

As COVID-19 infection cases and hospitalizations begin to decline, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul lifts the statewide indoor business mask-or-vaccine requirement beginning February 10. Hochul’s announcement comes after consultation with local leaders on steps to fight COVID-19.

The mandate was temporarily implemented on December 10 as COVID-19 cases spiked statewide, to address the winter surge and the Omicron variant rise; the temporary measure is no longer needed. It is now optional for businesses, local governments and counties to enforce.

“It was an emergency temporary measure put in place literally two months ago. And at this time we say that it is the right decision to lift this mandate for indoor businesses and let counties, cities and businesses to make their own decisions,” Hochul said. “Given the declining cases, given declining hospitalizations, that is why we feel comfortable to lift this.”

Masks are still required at:

  • State-regulated hospitals and health care facilities
  • State-regulated nursing homes and adult care facilities
  • Homeless shelters
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Correctional facilities
  • On public transportation; buses and bus stations, airports, and other related entities
  • And school and childcare centers

Hochul said those are more concentrated areas where we people are most vulnerable. She announced her new Winter Toolkit that aims to keep New Yorkers safe and open. It focuses on protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers, increasing vaccinations and boosters, strengthening our health care system, empowering local leaders and supporting individuals facing the long-term effects of COVID.

The Winter Toolkit  can be read here.

Locally, Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans announced that City Hall and most other City-operated public facilities will lift their mask requirements as well. With the mask requirement remaining for schools, City R-Centers and Libraries will continue requiring masks in those facilities.

“We recognize that the pandemic is not over yet and applaud the Governor for keeping New York safe and open for business through her Winter Toolkit, especially the expansion of the #VaxforKids program to bring vaccines directly to youth and their families at schools, community centers and other locations,” said Evans.

Monroe County Executive Adam J. Bello said the requirements for guests and employees to wear masks inside county facilities will be lifted. He said with common-sense precautions, we can get to a place where we can manage our risks and live with this virus without upending our daily lives.

While Gov. Hochul hasn’t yet removed the mask mandate for public schools, she said decisions on masks and schools and other Covid-19 protocols will be reassessed in early March. There are plans to distribute two tests for every K-12 student.

NYGOP Chairman Nick Langworthy disagrees with Hochul not lifting the mask mandate for schools, saying her refusal is “patently absurd” and she is keeping children–the least vulnerable population to covid-trapped under masks.”

“I want people to know, this pandemic is not over. It is not over. That is why we’re still going to maintain protections for vulnerable populations in areas where people are very concentrated, because I want people to feel safe,” Hochul said.

“I want people to still feel safe when they come into the cities and go to their jobs, that they’re not going to contract this virus.”