New York will no longer require students and staff to wear masks inside schools beginning on Wednesday, March 2nd, ending the state’s school mask mandate, Governor Kathy Hochul said during a press conference on Sunday. This applies to children ages two and older in childcare settings.
This comes days after New York City officials announced that students would no longer have to wear masks outside of schools. However, it is unclear whether Mayor Eric Adams will lift the city’s indoor school mask mandate, which has been more stringent than the state’s.
“We’ve been in conversation with the city of New York,” Hochul said. “If they wanted to continue it longer, that’s certainly their prerogative.” She deferred commenting on New York City’s situation, saying she spoke to the mayor this morning and he should make the announcement.
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Earlier this month, the governor lifted the statewide mask mandate for businesses and certain indoor spaces, but said she would reassess the school mask mandate when schools reopen after the midwinter break on February 28th. However, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropping masking requirements in communities based on COVID-19 transmission rates on Friday, Hochul said she made the decision after consulting with the state officials, the CDC, and educators across New York.
Noting the decline in pediatric COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, from its January peaks during the omicron surge, Hochul said that the situation had improved enough to end the school mask mandate, saying that masks were not required in counties where COVID transmission was low or medium, and even counties where cases are high can have the flexibility to determine whether to keep the mandate.
Hochul did emphasize that some parents and students may decide to continue to wear masks — and that the state “will not stand for any bullying, ostracization, or harassment of any individual who chooses to still wear a mask.”
New York City’s five counties all have “low” transmission, according to the CDC. Eighty-seven percent of all adults in the city are fully vaccinated, while 78% of 13-17 year-olds are fully vaccinated and 42% of children 5-12 years have completed their vaccination series.
City Hall and the NYC Department of Education have not responded to requests for comment.
On Friday, Kate Smart, a spokesperson for Adams, said, “Our teams of doctors and health experts will examine the CDC guidance and make the recommendations that are best for the people of New York City. We have followed the science from the beginning, and we will continue to do just that … Mayor Adams has been clear that he is excited to reopen New York’s economy, but we will not make any premature decisions to jeopardize our recovery. We will continue to listen to the experts and follow the guidance.”
Adams himself had said last week, “We’re going to pull back on children wearing masks outdoors. I want to pull back on all of these mandates, but we want to do it in a smart way.”