Gov. Kathy Hochul rolls back NY mask mandate in indoor places


Zach Kaplan, iNews editor-in-chief

ALBANY – In a move that was expected but shocking, New York governor Kathy Hochul is ending the state’s indoor mask mandate, as well as the rule that required businesses to ask people for proof of vaccination upon entering, according to the New York Times. 

Hochul will review a separate mask mandate for New York’s schools after the midwinter break, based on the “complete picture,” she said, also acknowledging that there is a “strong possibility” the school mask mandate will be lifted. 

The governor’s change in plans is in conjunction with the moves by the Democratic governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Delaware, who all removed the mask mandate in schools. Thus, it’s entirely possible the governor will follow suit when that mandate expires.

At iSchool, students are torn about the potential change. In a random survey of 77 students, 21% of students said they would take their masks off if the mandate ended, 23% of students said they maybe would take their masks off in some scenarios, and 56% of students said they would not take off their masks at all. 

Many of those who said they would not take off the mask cited lack of trust, and overcrowding in the school’s hallways, and most of those who said they would might take their masks off in specific situations seemed ambivalent or undecided. Those who said they would take their masks off entirely cited masks as a distraction, an annoyance and many stated they believed they would learn better without them. 

The rapid switch to the removal and lesser adoption of masks has been in the works for a long time. 

Phil Murphy, governor of New Jersey, was the one who got the ball rolling, and introduced the idea of living with the virus permanently, and treating it like the flu. Murphy is the vice chairman of the National Governors Association, and it’s possible his move to end all mask mandates, school and indoors, was what got the ball rolling.

“This is not a declaration of victory as much as an acknowledgment that we can responsibly live with this thing,” Murphy said on Monday. 

The reason it took so long was the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, cases of which are plummeting all across the country, and creating an opportunity for Democratic governors to finally end stringent restrictions that they had hoped to end in the fall before Omicron. 

Murphy, in particular, faced a lot of pressure from Republicans across the state, and the governor was stunned by the energy of New Jersey right-wing voters. Through focus groups across the state, Murphy’s team noticed a trend; that voters shared frustrations over public health measures, and had a desire to return to “normal,” according to the New York Times. 

We are not – and I’ve said this many times – going to manage COVID to zero,” Murphy said. “We have to learn how to live with COVID as we move from a pandemic to an endemic phase of this virus.” 

That messaging has echoed around the country, with governors from the National Governors Association meeting with Biden to discuss a plan to move from the crisis management of the pandemic to the recognition and acknowledgement that the virus was here to stay and manageable. 

As of now, with Omicron cases dropping, the weather getting warmer, it’s easy to feel a sense of optimism related to the pandemic, and it’s entirely possible we’ll get to a new normal with the way things are trending.