New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Wednesday announced the state’s health department will lift its mask mandate for public transit, shelters and correctional facilities.
Hochul declared the move “a new normal” in the state’s fight against COVID-19, adding that officials will still encourage mask-wearing on transit and the mandate remains in effect for health care facilities.
“Getting vaccinated, boosted is our best shot, but also we have to restore some normalcy to our lives,” Hochul said at a press conference. “And so, we’ll be talking about a new normal starting today.”
The mask mandate for public transit in the state has been in effect since April 2020. State and local officials have gradually scaled back New York’s initial requirement to wear face coverings in public when social distancing wasn’t possible as the pandemic progressed.
Hochul on Wednesday said she expected many to still wear masks on public transit and urged the public to follow newly posted signage in subway stations that reads, “let’s respect others’ choices.”
“You make your own determination, but do not judge your fellow passengers on what their choices are,” Hochul said.
Hochul in early February rolled back the state’s indoor mask mandate in most settings and weeks later lifted the requirement for schools. New York City dropped its mandate for schools in March following Hochul’s decision, but mask requirements remained for public transit and other limited settings statewide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had long implemented a mask requirement on planes, trains and buses nationwide, but a federal judge struck down the rule in April.
Multiple transit systems, including Washington D.C.’s Metro, quickly dropped their mask requirements, but masks remained mandatory on New York City’s subway and other public transit in the state.
“I want to thank everyone who’s been complying on our transit systems for 28 months — a long time,” Hochul said on Wednesday.
“I know for many it became second nature, but it’s always been a visible reminder that something is not normal here, and it was there for the right reason,” she continued. “It protected health, and now we’re in a far different place than we had been.”