Gov. Kathy Hochul lifted New York’s statewide masking requirement in schools on Wednesday, March 2, citing a dramatic drop in COVID-19 infections and new federal guidelines.
“The day has come,” Hochul said at a press conference in Albany.
New guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most Americans can now safely take a break from wearing masks, including students in schools.
“That is why I feel very confident that this is the time to lift the mask requirements,” Hochul said.
As of Saturday, state officials said the 7-day average for new cases was fewer than 1,671 for the first time since late July. Other metrics have also fallen rapidly, including hospitalizations and deaths.
The CDC guidelines for other indoor spaces aren’t binding, meaning cities and institutions even in areas of low risk may set their own rules. Hochul said counties and cities could keep their own mandates in place, and parents could still choose to send their kids to school in masks.
The new rules also apply to children two years and older in childcare facilities.
Despite criticism over the state’s pandemic measures, Hochul said she remained resolute in sticking with experts and health data as her guide and “not let criticism and politics intervene in this decision-making.”
Earlier this month, Hochul let a broad mask mandate for most indoor settings expire, but said the schools requirement would remain in place. She had promised to revisit the schools question by the first week of March.
Masks are still required in some places, including public transit, homeless shelters, jails and prisons, adult care facilities and healthcare settings.