New York Governor Lifts Mask Mandate for Businesses, Requirement for Schools Remains

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday the state’s mask-or-vaccine mandate for most indoor businesses such as grocery stores and offices will be lifted, effective on Feb. 10.

“At this time, we think it is the right decision to lift this mandate for indoor businesses and let counties and businesses make their own decisions on what they want to do with respect to masks and vaccination requirements,” Hochul said.

The mandate, put in place in mid-December, required businesses to ask customers to wear face coverings unless they check for proof of vaccination.

Hochul has yet to announce whether the current Feb. 21 end date for the state’s school mask mandate will be dropped. Several neighboring states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, confirmed earlier this week that masks for students will no longer be required by the end of February or March.

Besides schools and childcare centers, mask requirements are still in effect at state-regulated health care settings, adult care facilities, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and public transportation.

On Wednesday, Rep. Chris Jacobs, a Republican representing New York’s 27th congressional district, called on Hochul to drop her mandate for schools, saying the concept that children must continue to wear masks during class “ignores and rejects available scientific data.”

“We write today to urge you to immediately rescind the onerous and unconstitutional mask mandate in New York State’s schools,” New York’s Republican congressional delegation said in a statement. “We have heard from countless families throughout our districts, expressing their concerns with the mandate, and how it has negatively impacted their child’s experience in the classroom.”

The Democrat governor discussed the mandate for schools during a council meeting with teachers, school superintendents, and parents on Tuesday, saying she wants to wait until after the upcoming school break before making a final call on the edict, The New York Post reported.

New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Robert Schneider said in a statement after the meeting that the governor hopes vaccination rates for children will increase before removing the mask mandate for public schools, which has been in place since August.

“She said she would like to see what happens when the students and the faculty return after the February break to see if there’s a surge in cases,” Lowry said.

Lowry also said parents have expressed frustration that the state failed to provide benchmarks as to when the mask mandates for their children will end.

New York’s mask rule was enforced as the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus started to dominate cases in the state and across the nation. The mandate was initially set to expire weeks ago, but officials have extended it twice while state officials waited for Omicron cases to subside.

Meanwhile, students and staff at public schools in Massachusetts will also no longer be required to wear face masks during class or while indoors on school property, effective on Feb. 28, state officials announced on Wednesday.

“They can remove masks regardless of vaccination rates in their buildings,” said Jeffrey Riley, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education. “Several schools across the Commonwealth have already lifted mask requirements by attesting that 80 percent of their students and staff are vaccinated and they have had success.”