NEW YORK – New York State’s requirement for camouflage in schools will be lifted by March 2, Gov. Katie Hochul said Sunday, citing a sharp drop in COVID-19 infections and new federal guidelines.
Hours later, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he was considering canceling the vaccine in restaurants, bars and theaters before early next week as infections and hospitalizations continue their downward trend.
Adams ’statement could also lift the mask mandate for the city’s approximately 1 million schoolchildren. The decision will be made only on Friday, after a full week of classes after students from the country’s largest school system return from a week-long vacation, he said.
A couple of announcements marked an important turning point for the city and state, once being the epicenter of a global pandemic.
“The day has come,” Hochul told a news conference in Albany.
New recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say most Americans can now relax in masks, including students in schools.
“So I feel very confident that it’s time to abolish the requirements for masks,” said Hochul.
As of Saturday, government officials said the average number of new cases in 7 days was less than 1,671 for the first time since late July. Other figures also declined rapidly, including hospitalization and death.
CDC instructions for other indoor facilities are not mandatory, which means that cities and agencies, even in low-risk areas, can set their own rules. Hochul said counties and cities can keep their own mandates, and parents can still send their children to school in masks.
The new rules also apply to children from 2 years old who are in children’s institutions.
Hochul said she had consulted with Adams before her announcement, including a conversation earlier Sunday.
Despite criticism over the state’s pandemic measures, Hochul said she still strongly adheres to experts and health data as her guide and “does not allow criticism and policy to interfere in making that decision.”
Earlier this month, Hochul allowed a broad mandate of the mask to end for most of the premises, but said the school requirements would remain in place. She promised to reconsider the issue of schools by the first week of March.
The mask’s broad mandate was implemented during the COVID-19 surge caused by the Omicron variant in December.
Masks are still required in some places, including public transport, homeless shelters, prisons and jails, adult care facilities and medical facilities.
Andrew Riga, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said the abolition of vaccine requirements would be a positive step for restaurants, bars and theaters.
“We need to continue to be smart and secure, and change mandates as COVID risks are reduced. So it will be good news for many restaurants and bars, although I would not be surprised if some businesses want to voluntarily keep it in place. ” Andrew Riga, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a text message to The Associate Press.
The mayor hoped to start lifting the restrictions, but said his decision, like the governor’s decision, would be influenced by key indicators.
“The numbers in New York continue to decline day by day,” Adams said. “So while COVID indicators show a low level of risk and we don’t see any surprises this week, on Monday, March 7, we will also repeal the Key2NYC requirements,” he said.
The Key2NYC program was launched last August to put pressure on New Yorkers to get vaccinated – or risk losing access to many of the city’s attractions, such as museums and theaters, as well as closing restaurants and bars.