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New York State students can unmask! Update: Read statement from Governor

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Governor Hochul announces an end to the school mask mandate in NY on Wednesday March 2, 2022

By Andrew Harris

As expected, public schools in New York State will no longer require students and staff to wear masks in the classroom, cafeteria, or at athletic events. Pre-school and younger children in a daycare setting may also ditch the mask. New York State officials did make a point of saying that county health departments can still dictate whether students should wear a mask should infection rates spike. Wednesday March 2nd will be many students first day without a mask in a long time.

Governor Hochul was very clear that in counties where transmission rates remain high, county health departments will have the flexibility to enact local mask requirements. Parents and students will still have complete discretion if they feel wearing a mask is appropriate. Hochul stressed that bullying students, faculty, and staff who prefer to remain masked in schools will not be tolerated:

“I want to send a loud message that we will have no tolerance in our school system or anywhere for any harassment of bully of any child or their parents,” Hochul said.

From the Governor’s office today:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced plans to end the state mask requirement in schools starting on March 2, 2022. The Governor made this decision based on the analysis of several key COVID-19 data trends and after consulting with health and education experts, as well as parents, teachers and school administrators. The announcement also follows recent changes in metrics used by the CDC to determine risk and transmission levels in communities. Other mitigation measures should remain in place.

“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,” Governor Hochul said. “This is a huge step forward for our kids and communities and I am grateful to the students, educators and parents for their dedication to keeping us all safe—we’ve reached this milestone because of your hard work.”  

New York has made significant progress in the fight against COVID-19. Among large states, New York has the highest rate of adults fully vaccinated for COVID-19, the highest rate of teenagers fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and the second-highest rate of children ages 5-11 fully vaccinated. New York State has experienced a 98 percent decline in COVID-19 cases since the Omicron peak, and a continuous downward trend in cases for 51 consecutive days.  

The number of children testing positive for COVID is declining to levels not seen since before students returned from summer break; yesterday 229 cases were reported compared to a 7-day average of 832 cases at the beginning of the school year. Pediatric hospitalizations have declined by roughly 80 percent since the Omicron peak. 

Ahead of Midwinter break, 4.8 million tests were sent to schools for children to take home. An additional 4.8 million tests will be sent this week for students to take home upon their return to school. In total, 20.8 million tests have been distributed to schools. Over the past six weeks, the State established 261 #VaxForKids sites, bringing the vaccine directly to New York families to help parents and guardians get their eligible children vaccinated and boosted.  

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, “Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers, today we are able to lift the statewide mask requirement for schools. As Governor Hochul said, we will remain vigilant as New York moves forward, and our team at the Department of Health will continue to monitor the data and advance early warning monitoring systems like wastewater surveillance. We continue to urge all New Yorkers to get vaccinated and get boosted, and we will work with our partners in education statewide to ensure our schools, teachers, and students have the support they need to keep our classrooms healthy and safe.” 

State Education Commissioner Dr. Betty A. Rosa said, “I thank the Governor for her leadership. Working together we look forward to keeping our schools safe for students and educators.”

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