New York's "mask-or-vax" mandate for most public indoor settings will be lifted on Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday morning.

She said the decision to continue any kind of requirement will be left up to individual counties, cities and businesses.

Face coverings will still be required in schools, but Hochul said the state will re-assess that in the first week of March after students return from the winter break.

Masks will also still be required in bus and train stations, prisons, state-regulated care settings and homeless shelters.

"I want people to know this pandemic is not over," Hochul said.

The governor added that she "always, always retain the flexibility to retain the judgment if necessary" to reimpose COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

The state's Department of Health instituted the statewide mask rule for indoor settings in December amid a spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant. Coronavirus cases have since rapidly declined since that time.

Hochul said Wednesday that the state has seen a 93% drop in COVID-19 cases since the peak of the omicron surge in early January. The statewide average positivity rate and hospitalizations are also down.

“Why is all this happening? Because all New Yorkers and businesses stepped up and did the right thing," Hochul said.

The state's indoor mask mandate also faces a court challenge. Opponents have argued the state Department of Health did not have the authority to put it in place. A state Supreme Court judge on Long Island overturned the mask mandate, but a stay on that order was put in place by an appellate court as the Hochul administration seeks an appeal.

The Hochul administration, as well as state Attorney General Letitia James' office, have argued the Department of Health has broad authority over protecting public health, which includes the indoor mask mandate.


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