Governor says New York expected to lift mask mandate for schools Wednesday

Students in New York State will likely be allowed to attend school unmasked Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Sunday.

The governor said the mask mandate in schools, an unpopular policy for many parents across the state, will likely be lifted two days after students return from the February break. Counties and cities may still enact their own mandates, the governor said, something that is unlikely on Long Island.

“And this is up to parents,” Ms. Hochul added. “Individual parents have their own knowledge of their children, they know their own children’s health, they know their tolerance for the masks.

“But I want to send a loud message that we will have no tolerance in our school system or anywhere for any harassment or bullying of any child [over their mask decision] or their parents.”

The announcement, which includes children over 2 years of age in child care facilities, comes as the seven-day positivity rate fell to just 1.7%, down from 23.2% a month ago. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 are on a 48-consecutive-day downward trend, the governor said.

Perhaps most importantly, the governor said the number of infected school-aged children in New York is at its lowest point since July with 229 positive cases Saturday, down from 822 at the start of school in September and 14,167 at the highest point in pediatric cases Jan. 10.

“We’ve withstood a lot of criticism, a lot of objections to this,” Ms. Hochul said in acknowledging the public reaction to the mandate as it persisted through five months of school.

The decision follows a change in guidelines announced by the Centers for Disease Control Friday afternoon that states most people no longer need to wear a mask in public spaces.