Hochul lifts mask mandate for businesses but not schools

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 February 2022 at 12:28 pm

Photo by Marsha Rivers: This sign is posted on the entrance at the Albion High School community entrance, leading to the gym. People will still be required to wear mask inside schools.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced today that masks will not be required beginning tomorrow at businesses and many other indoor public places.

The governor said masks will still be required at schools, although she, public health and education officials will look at the data in early March and re-evaluate whether masks will be mandated in schools.

The decision to not require masks in businesses follows a big drop in Covid cases, hospitalizations and percent of positive tests from a spike in early January due to the Omicron variant.

Hochul announced the mask mandate about two months ago. The mask requirement remains in place for health care facilities, nursing homes, correctional facilities and on public transportation.

Local governments and private businesses can still require that masks be required, and people also can choose to wear them, Hochul said.

“Individuals who continue to want to wear masks can continue to wear masks,” she said.

Hochul said the mask mandate made a big difference in helping the state get through the Omicron surge.

The number of Covid cases statewide has plummeted from a high of 90,132 cases on Jan. 7 to 6,041 on Feb. 8. The percent positive is down from 23 percent on Jan. 2 to 3.67 percent on Feb. 8. The number of hospitalizations also has declined from about 12,000 on Jan. 12 to 4,600 on Feb. 8.

Hochul said schools would be provided with at-home Covid testing kits for each student to take before the February break and then again when they return. Those results will help public health and education officials decide whether masks will continue to be required in schools. Hochul said she expects to announce a decision in early March regarding masks in schools.

Rob Ortt, State Senate Republican Leader, issued this statement: “The end of the ‘business mask mandate’ is long overdue. But it is absolutely outrageous that Governor Hochul is extending her mask mandate for school children, with no established off-ramp. The public deserves to know which metrics and so-called science her administration used to make this misguided decision.

“At a time when restrictions across our country and the entire world are being dropped, New Yorkers are desperate for the same. They are desperate for leadership, desperate for checks and balances. This Governor and the Democrat-led legislature are providing NONE of the above and instead adding layers of more frustrations to New Yorkers.

“My Republican colleagues and I have fought against these mandates for years, and will continue to do so until every single unconstitutional mandate is lifted.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley issued this statement:  “The end of the mask mandate for businesses is a welcome development, but given what the data is telling us about the rapid decline in Covid-19 infections and what is being done in neighboring states that have otherwise maintained egregious and heavy-handed policies throughout the pandemic, it isn’t close to the announcement we would hope to hear.

“At this point it should be no question that the time for state-level mandates of any kind has come to an end and control of pandemic management should return to local governments and school districts.

“For rural communities like mine, mask mandates for healthy children in schools have done far more harm than good. Should educators and local administrators deem that such mandates aren’t needed, they should have the ability to make the best decision possible for the well-being of their students.”