The obligation to wear a mask indoors in public places in New York has its hours counted. The Governor of the State, Democrat Kathy Hochul, has lifted this Wednesday the order, in force since December 10 to contain the wave of the omicron variant. Starting this Thursday, the use of face masks will be optional, both among individuals and by different counties, companies or cities.
Despite the drastic drop in coronavirus cases, Governor Hochul has recalled that face coverings will remain mandatory for children in schools until at least February 21, when the winter school holidays begin. On the other hand, commercial establishments that until now should theoretically require the use of a mask and the vaccination certificate to allow entry, will be free to do so starting this Thursday.
The daily average of new cases in the State of New York was 7,143 this Monday, which represents just under 10% of the daily average reached at the peak of the wave of the omicron variant, last January 11. On November 27, one day after the new variant was detected, Hochul declared a state of emergency.
The obligation to wear a mask has been in force in closed spaces, including shops, gyms, common areas of residential buildings, public transport and private companies. The penalty for violating the measure in cafes or restaurants, after random and surprise inspections, was one thousand dollars, but in practice few have been imposed. The same thing happens in the city’s public transport, where contempt for the norm has been a constant among a significant percentage, although smaller, of passengers.
The end of the mandatory mask brings back some of the long-awaited normalcy in New York, especially in the hospitality sector and in companies that are struggling to attract workers to offices, such as many in the city’s financial sector. Hochul’s decision comes in the wake of similar announcements in other Democratic-ruled states, including New Jersey and California, which have also relaxed the use of masks in schools.
It is unknown whether the mayor of New York, also a Democrat Eric Adams, will follow Hochul’s path. At the moment, only the president of the district of Manhattan, Mark Levine, has spoken, recalling on the social network Twitter that many New Yorkers will continue to wear a mask as an extra precaution. Levine recalls that it is still mandatory in transportation and airports, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, nursing homes and shelters for the homeless and prisons, according to the federal mandate. “Although infections are down 90% from the peak of the surge, we must remember that New York still has many cases a day.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.