Governor Kathy Hochul has officially lifted the statewide business “mask or vax” requirement.
Hochul, making the announcement on Wednesday, said counties, cities and businesses can still choose to require masks. She said the decision was made based on overall COVID-19 cases being down, hospitalizations being down, and vaccines and booster rates being up in New York State.
Masks will still be required in schools and childcare centers; healthcare settings, adult care and nursing homes, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and on public transportation.
Hochul said before and after midwinter break, home test kits will be provided for K-12 students. The state will then make an assessment in early March on protocols based on the latest metrics.
State Senator George Borrello issued a statement welcoming Hochul’s news but calling it “long overdue.” He said the mask mandates of the last two years have caused “confusion, controversy, and conflict.”
He also spoke against the continued mask requirement in schools, asking, “Where is the science that confirms masking students has any beneficial impact? These are arbitrary, unjustifiable decisions. It is time for all mandates to end and for New York State to permanently close this chapter of governing by edict.”
As New York joins several other states in dropping mask mandates, the Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the CDC continues to recommend people mask in public indoor settings in areas of high and substantial transmission.
Based on CDC data, community transmission remains high across the country, including New York State. The category of high is calculated by the CDC as 100 or more new cases per 100,000 people over seven days or 10% or more positive tests in the last seven days.
In Chautauqua County, cases dropped below one thousand for the first time since the week of January 1 with 652 new cases reported, but there were 6 deaths for the week of January 30 through February 5.
There were 30 people hospitalized with 43% of them are not fully vaccinated. The total number of deaths is now 305.
The county’s 7-day average positivity rate is 8.2%, The community transmission rate is still considered “high” by the Centers for Disease Control.
203 of the new cases are located in the City of Jamestown. Since August 1, 58% of new cases were in people who were not vaccinated.
According to the CDC Vaccination Tracker, 65% of the county’s total population have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 58% of the total population is now fully vaccinated.