Gov. Hochul Lifts Mask Mandate for Indoor Businesses, Wants to Wait and See for Schools

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Coronavirus, COVID, covid testing, COVID VACCINE, Media, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

The latest numbers and trends have New Yorkers hoping the worst days of the pandemic could be over – for good this time.

New York State has below a five percent positivity rate, hospitalizations are at some of their lowest levels since before Christmas and now Gov. Hochul is reacting, saying it’s time to lift the mask mandate for indoor businesses and offices.

“We say that it’s the right decision to lift this mandate for indoor businesses and let counties, cities and businesses to make their own decisions to what they want to do given declining cases and hospitalizations. That’s why we feel comfortable,” the governor said.

This change; however, doesn’t affect the vaccine mandate. And there are a number of exceptions like at healthcare facilities, on public transit and in schools.

“We have run almost two full years and we have done it well so we’re good, we’re at a good point and I think it’s time to lift the mandate,” said Msgr. David Cassato, Vicar for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

In the Diocese of Brooklyn, at-home COVID tests have been rolled out and the next hurdle to get over is winter break starting on Feb. 21. Gov. Hochul wants kids tested after the break, and based on those results, it could mean masks no more.

“You’ve seen the numbers go down and I think it’s very important for kids to see each other,” Msgr. Cassato said. “You really can’t see the smile or the reaction at times because half their face is covered.”

But teachers know the reality is they’re missing a lot more than just smiles, they’re also not seeing things that could indicate something’s wrong. One teacher at St. Francis DeSales Catholic Academy in Belle Harbor, Queens says it has to do with non-verbal cues.

“You really don’t see the students, you don’t get the same interaction that you would get if the masks were off,” Nancy said. “Those non-verbal cues are so important when you’re communicating with someone.”

Gov. Hochul strongly suggested, Wednesday, that the mandate for schools could be lifted on March 7, a day eighth grader Fiona Fitzgerald has been waiting for.

“I’m excited, I’m very happy if this happens that it will finally be over and we don’t have to wear these things anymore,” Fiona said.

With neighboring states lifting their school mandates, the approach now is not to fight the pandemic but learn to live with it.

“It will be better, especially with more new people coming into the school and not knowing what they look like. It’s covering everything and you can’t see their features,” Fiona said.

The mandate will officially expire on Thursday, Feb. 10.