Gov. Kathy Hochul appeared to soften her “mask-or-vax” stance Friday and hinted the edict could be lifted or altered for New York businesses next week amid plummeting COVID-19 infection rates.
The current mask order for businesses expires on Feb. 10. The mask mandate for schools expires on Feb. 21.
“We’ll be making some announcements in the short-term as we see the numbers progressing,” Hochul said during a press briefing in Kingston.
That means a decision could come next week.
The COVID-19 positivity rate plunged to 4.4 percent as of Thursday, down from a high of 23 percent in early January as the highly contagious Omicron variant invaded New York.
Hospitalizations are down, but there were still 110 COVID-related deaths, an indicator that typically lags the drop in the positivity rate.
Hochul said a key indicator is that more than 95 percent of adult New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. About 85 percent have received the complete series.
Meanwhile, 80 percent of adolescent ages 12 to 17 have received at least one jab of the vaccine and 69 percent received both doses.
By comparison, 38 percent of kids aged 5 to 11 received one dose, while 29 percent are completely vaccinated.
Hochul said the low vaccination rate among younger children is still a concern.
“The more children who are vaccinated, the safer they’ll be when they go to school, and get to the time where we don’t need a mask anymore,” Hochul said.
“It’s something we’re striving for but we’re not just there yet.”
But New York City has its own mask mandates. And Mayor Eric Adams would determine whether to lift or maintain the Big Apple restrictions initially put in place by his predecessor, former Mayor Bill de Blasio.