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NY’s school mask mandate lifted, effective March 2

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Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced that New York’s mask mandate for schools will be lifted, effective March 2.

The new rules effective Wednesday apply to children 2 years and older in childcare facilities. New York state has 2.7 million schoolchildren, including about 1 million in New York City.

Hochul touted strong vaccination rates, and declining trends in new COVID cases, the state’s seven-day average positivity rate and hospitalizations, along with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Friday, the Biden administration significantly loosened mask-wearing guidelines to protect against COVID-19 transmission in local communities, meaning most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.

While the statewide mask requirement in schools will no longer be in effect, we’re still taking precautions.

New York will distribute more than 20 million tests to school districts across the state.

Masks will still be required in certain settings, like healthcare facilities. pic.twitter.com/0LWWatWJfI

— Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) February 27, 2022

Hochul said the state will continue to distribute masks and COVID testing kits, perform COVID tests and vaccinations for students, along with the development of a waste water surveillance system to monitor any potential spike in cases, even if people are not getting tested for COVID-19 as much.

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. On Feb. 15, Hochul said she was monitoring a monitor a variety of factors, including vaccination rates for children age 5 and older, infection rates and hospitalizations and the possibility of any emerging COVID-19 variants.

The broad mask mandate was implemented during a COVID-19 surge fueled by the omicron variant in December.

A Siena College poll released last Tuesday found that a majority of New Yorkers wanted the state to wait for more information before the Hochul administration lifted a mandate on mask-wearing in schools statewide.

According to data from the CDC cited by the governor on Saturday, 81.5% of New Yorkers between the ages of 12-17 have received at least one vaccine dose and 71.4% have completed the vaccine series. As of Saturday, the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate is 1.88%.

“We’re at our lowest point in pediatric cases since July of 2021, and that was before the school year started,” Hochul said. “So this has been our trend over the school year. So as you can all see looking at the data and the evidence that we are in a much much better place.”

Hochul says counties that have a higher rate of COVID transmission “will have the flexibility” to keep the mask rule in place. And she says parents will have the choice to keep their kids masked if needed. She urges people to not bully those who want to stay masked or otherwise

— Nick Reisman (@NickReisman) February 27, 2022

Once the mandate is lifted, Hochul said it would be up to local districts like New York City to decide whether masks will have to remain on faces in classrooms.

“There are some counties in the state of New York where they have a higher rate of transmission,” Hochul said. “We will allow them the flexibility to determine what is best for your county. We would encourage them to take a look at this and follow the CDC, but this would no longer be a mandate.”

Hochul said that anyone who wishes to continue to wear a mask should feel free to do so, without the fear of harassment.  

“We will not have any tolerance for people who are questioning someone’s own personal decision to do what they want,” Hochul said. “If people want to continue wearing masks, they will be allowed to continue to wear masks.”

Masks will still be required in state-regulated health care settings and nursing homes, correctional facilities, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and airports, buses and trains stations.



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