On Wednesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul lifted the state’s “vaccine-or-mask” requirement for indoor businesses, citing “major improvement” in COVID-19 numbers. Gov. Hochul said in a briefing that the rule — which mandates that workers either be vaccinated against the coronavirus or wear a mask at all times while on the job — will be dropped effective Thursday, January 10th.
Gov. Hochul said that since the peak of the Omicron surge on Jan. 7 when 90,000 state residents tested positive in a single day, “we’ve witnessed a 93% drop in cases and are now below where we were [before the surge]. That is what we were watching for, that is what we were waiting for, and it’s finally happening.” Hochul instituted the mask-or-vaccine rule on Dec. 10 amid a surge in cases driven by the Omicron coronavirus variant. The rule faced widespread criticism from the state’s businesses and political opponents, who asserted it was confusing. Despite that, Hochul extended the mandate twice, and as she announced its lifting she defended her stance, saying: “we saw how quickly Omicron was spreading, studying what was happening around the globe and saying this was coming our way — we know this is coming to New York and we need to be prepared for that. It was a strong action to take at the time — we heard a lot about it. But I again stand behind that as a way to not have to shut down businesses when this variant ended up spreading like wildfire.” When the mask-or-vaccine rule was implemented on December 10th, New York’s seven-day average of new cases stood at 51 per 100,000 residents, peaking at 382 per 100,000 a month later. It has now dropped to 35 per 100,000, according to state health officials.
However, New York schools are still under a mask mandate until at least Feb. 21. On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said his mandate for schools will end in March, and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said he recommends ending the statewide mask mandate in schools effective February 28.
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