Gov. Hochul: Students will not need to wear masks in the fall

New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul announced last week that students will not need to wear masks in school this fall.

Although masking isn’t yet deemed necessary, Ms. Hochul said she will bring back a mandate if the situation demands it.

“We don’t currently — based on today’s numbers — anticipate the need for masks in classrooms but I’m going to reserve the right to return this policy if the numbers change, the circumstances change and the severity of the illnesses change,” she said.

The announcement came during the governor’s update last week on the state’s response to COVID-19 and monkeypox, in which she unveiled a fall action plan the state is crafting in preparation for cold and flu season. 

The fall planning will focus on addressing the following issues, according to the governor’s website,

• A return to school strategy, including distributing 3 million tests to schools before the school year begins.

• Getting more New Yorkers vaccinated and boosted, including the ability to set up mass vaccination sites if the need arises.

• Encouraging New Yorkers to test early and test often.

• Expanding the availability of treatment and therapeutics, including a recently launched statewide hotline for New Yorkers who may not have immediate access to health care professionals, as well as an ongoing commitment to support New Yorkers struggling with the effects of long COVID-19

• Readying a stockpile of personal protective equipment, including 20 million tests to deploy as needed.

• Strengthening hospital systems, including preparations to ramp up the state’s Surge Operations Center if necessary 

• Coordinating with federal and local partners.

The omicron subvariant BA.5 is now the dominant variant causing a new wave of infections in the U.S, even among those who have recovered from the variant recently.

“The reason it has us concerned is that it’s incredibly immune evasive,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said during the governor’s presentation. “People who were infected three months ago, we’re seeing high levels of reinfections,” he said. 

However, there is no reason to believe all the precautions that have been used against COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began aren’t effective against the subvariant, according to Dr. Jha.

“The key message that I want to make sure everybody understands is that the key tools that we have developed over the last 18 months, vaccines, treatments, our diagnostic tests, they continue to work against BA.5,” he said.

The Suffolk County Department of Health reported July 25 that 9.3% tested positive in Suffolk County; 9.6% positive on a seven-day average. It also reported a reinfection rate of 9.8 per 100,000 on Long Island, as of July 20.

“I feel like we’ve seen everything, but maybe we haven’t — and that’s what we’re preparing for,” Gov. Hochul said.

Case tracker

Following are the local numbers for new positive cases reported , according to Suffolk County’s case tracker.  The case tracker can be found at

Greenport Village – 3

Orient – 2

Southold – 3

Peconic -1

Cutchogue – 4

Mattituck – 3

Jamesport – 5

Calverton – 6

Riverhead – 5

Baiting Hollow – 2

Wading River – 5