Amid loosening COVID-19 policies, people should still mask up


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The Editorial Board

After New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the lifting of a state mandate requiring businesses to ask customers to wear masks and/or provide proof of full vaccination, New Yorkers were suddenly confused by the myriad of evolving mask policies.

Yet, amid the growing optimism that COVID-19 is becoming endemic, New Yorkers should remain vigilant and wear facial coverings to prevent spreading COVID-19 to the immunocompromised, the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

Although many businesses and New Yorkers are optimistic following the announcement, Hochul is acting in defiance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which still recommends using masks in public indoor settings.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky acknowledged the public becoming optimistic at positive case numbers trending downward and how mask policies would be set at a state and local level. Yet, she thinks it’s too soon to loosen restrictions.

“We still have about 290,000 cases a day and hospitalizations that are higher than they ever were in our Delta peak even,” Walensky said on SiriusXM’s “Doctor Radio’s Reports.”

New York City’s daily average of 29 deaths and 59 hospitalizations over the last seven days is a decrease from the daily average of 57 deaths and 220 hospitalizations over the last 28 days. This could be attributed to a strict indoor mask mandate announced on Dec 13., before the omicron surge.

The expiring mandate won’t change much in New York City. Indoor venues will still ask customers for proof of vaccination after city officials told The New York Times that the requirement will be renewed on Feb 8.

The end of the mandate also won’t affect federal mandates that require masks when using public transportation, or state mandates when visiting health clinics, nursing homes or attending school, which Hochul said will be re-evaluated in early March.