New York’s governor on Wednesday announced an end to a years-long COVID-19 rule that people had largely stopped heeding, and officials had stopped enforcing, months ago.
The MTA mask mandate implemented at the start of the pandemic is over, Gov. Kathy Hochul said. The action takes effect immediately. Masking requirements remain in effect for adult care facilities and other health facilities regulated by the state Department of Health, she added.
“Masks are encouraged but optional on our mass transit across our state of New York,” Hochul said. “If you choose not to have a mask, it’s your own risk assessment. You make your own determination but do not judge your fellow passengers on what their choices are.”
Hochul, a Democrat, had hinted at an imminent end to the transit COVID requirement a day ago, but Wednesday’s expected announcement has been a long time coming. She said in mid-April the mask mandate would remain in effect for the “short-term,” but the emergence of omicron subvariants BA.2.12.1 and BA.2.12 and a corresponding uptick in hospitalizations soon followed. Then came the most contagious COVID strain yet in BA.5.
But with the feds rolling out omicron-specific COVID vaccine boosters this week (learn more here), and COVID numbers on the decline, Hochul is expected to say she’s ready to make the move.
“Thanks to everyone who has been compliant on the subway for 28 months,” Hochul said.
The mask mandate “was there for the right reason, to protect our health,” she added. “This is watching the trends and we’re seeing a stabilization. We’re very optimistic that we will be assuring each others’ safety.”
New York’s rolling new case average is down 39% in the last month, while COVID hospitalizations are down 20% in the same time frame.
The MTA apparently stopped tracking compliance with mask-wearing back in April, when the federal government stopped enforcing face coverings at airports and on planes and trains.