Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) announced on Sunday afternoon that the statewide mask mandate will be lifted in New York schools as of Wednesday, March 2.
Our top priority has always been keeping kids in school and making sure our classrooms are safe.— Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) February 27, 2022
Now, with COVID cases declining by 98% since the Omicron peak and updated @CDCgov guidance in place, we will lift the statewide school mask requirement this coming Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/WQ5NJKbF98
As the governor noted, however, counties and cities are still able to require masks in school, which sets her apart from some of her Republican counterparts who have sought to place that decision with parents on whether to mask their children.
Further, mask mandates will still be in effect in other settings, such as healthcare settings, shelters, correctional facilities, and public transportation.
While the statewide mask requirement in schools will no longer be in effect, we're still taking precautions.— Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) February 27, 2022
New York will distribute more than 20 million tests to school districts across the state.
Masks will still be required in certain settings, like healthcare facilities. pic.twitter.com/0LWWatWJfI
Hochul's Sunday announcement comes after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Friday updated its guidelines to loosen mask mandates for 70 percent of the country, which includes those in countries at "low" or "medium" risk for the Wuhan coronavirus.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten released a statement on Friday shortly after the updated guidelines were announced, which she also tweeted out, though Weingarten has restricted replies on virtually all of her tweets.
"We welcome these long-needed new metrics for a safe off-ramp from universal masking. The CDC’s guidance is informed by science, not politics, and sets us on a path to a new normal in schools and other public places. By using an analysis of hospitalizations in addition to community transmission, school districts, in collaboration with educators, staff, and families, can decide when to ease mask requirements—and we would urge everyone to apply it," Weingarten's statement opened with.
Much of the statement reflected a bold sense of self-congratulations, as the teachers' unions have been among the most vocal calling for mask mandates in schools to remain.
Weingarten also retweeted Hochul's tweet about lifting of the statewide mask mandate.
Becky Pringle and the National Education Association (NEA) seemed a little more hesitant, though, to accept the announcements.
Today the CDC announced new guidance, shifting the determination of masking measures to the local level, based on local conditions. While we are encouraged by the new guidance, local governments must bring educators to the table when deciding how to keep school communities safe.— NEA (@NEAToday) February 25, 2022
Educators are giving their all to meet the education and social-emotional needs of students during this pandemic. School districts should act cautiously in response to today’s CDC announcement, with the health and safety of students, educators, and their families always in mind.— Becky Pringle (@BeckyPringle) February 25, 2022
As I covered last November, the United States was one of just seven Western nations that still had such mask mandates in place. According to Education Week, before Hochul's announcement was made, New York joined 10 other states and Washington, D.C. in the category of "MASK REQUIREMENT IN EFFECT."