NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York schools will continue to require students and staff to wear masks despite dropping COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday.
However, the governor also announced the state’s mask-or-vaccine mandate for indoor public spaces will end beginning Thursday. Hochul said she will reevaluate the school mask mandate in the first week of March after students return from their mid-winter breaks.
The state plans to send millions of at-home rapid COVID test kits to families with the intent that parents test their children at the end of winter break. Data from those tests will help inform the state’s next steps.
The governor met with teachers, school superintendents and parents on Tuesday to discuss COVID safety protocols. She had hinted the school mandate would remain in place for now, saying she wants more kids to get vaccinated before she drops rules requiring masks in classrooms, which has been in place since the start of the academic year.
The indoor mask-or-vaccine mandate was put in place in mid-December as COVID cases began to spike right before the holiday season. In late January, Hochul extended the mandate to expire on Thursday, Feb. 10.
COVID rates have since fallen. On Sunday, New York reported its lowest percent positivity rate since omicron was named a variant of concern.
“This fight is not over, we’re not surrendering. This is not disarmament,” Hochul said, adding: “but again the trends are very, very positive.”
As of Wednesday, there has been a 93% drop in the number of daily cases since the peak of over 90,000 on Dec. 10, Hochul said. The statewide seven-day percent positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations have also sharply decreased.
Counties, municipalities, and private businesses are still free to set their own mask requirements, Hochul said. Additionally, masks are still required in health care settings, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, shelters, and on public transit.