Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced the end of the statewide mask mandate in schools beginning Wednesday, March 2, and Mayor Eric Adams has said he’ll decide by Friday whether city schools should follow suit.
Hochul said her decision was made after examining COVID-19 trends in New York and meeting with health and school officials along with parents and teachers.
“With more New Yorkers getting vaccinated, and the steady decline over the past several weeks in cases and hospitalizations from Omicron, we are now entering a new phase of the pandemic. Because New Yorkers have stepped up, we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools,” Hochul said.
Currently, the state has a 1.9% positivity rate, with an average of 10 cases per day within the last week, according to New York State’s Department of Health. In addition, Hochul said the number of children testing positive for COVID is declining, as demonstrated by Monday’s 229 reported cases compared to a seven-day average of 831 last September.
Hospitalization rates have also declined by around 80% since the Omicron peak in January, she added.
Because city schools are under the mayor’s jurisdiction, Adams has to decide whether to apply the governor’s decision to city schools – a decision he said he would make by Friday. If the city mandate is removed, students and school officials will be able to go to school maskless beginning Monday, March 7.
Adams also recently removed the vaccine requirements, letting those in the city dine indoors, work-out in fitness centers and head to entertainment venues without having to prove vaccination status.
“We’re taking this week to give business owners the time to adapt while we monitor the numbers to ensure we are making the best public health decision for the people of New York,” he announced on Twitter.
Although many praised Adams and Hochul for their decisions, some teachers, parents and school officials objected to change.
Parents for Responsive Equitable Safe Schools condemned the decision and said misconceptions that are “false” and “dangerous” have taken root in the media and in elective officials.
“Our children can understand that we make short-term sacrifices for the long-term greater good, so we can prioritize both learning and safety for all,” the group said in a statement. “They also can understand that we love them and don’t want them or their loved ones to get sick.”
The organization is hosting a #MaskingForAFriend rally on Wednesday, March 2 at 3 pm outside City Hall to air concerns some parents and teachers have.