There will not be a single, specific metric that will trigger a lifting of New York's mandate on mask wearing in schools, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday said.
Hochul, instead, reiterated she will continue to monitor "a combination of factors" to determine when and how the mask mandate would end in school buildings amid a heated debate over their continued use for kids and education workers.
"It really a holistic approach to it," Hochul said following a closed-door cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon. "I'm looking at global trends."
The factors include vaccination rates for children age 5 and older, as well as infection rates and hospitalizations. She is also watching for emerging COVID-19 variants on the order of omicron and delta that could drive cases up once again in the state.
New York last week moved to lift its indoor mask mandate for businesses as COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant have sharply decreased in the last several weeks. Mask rules remain in effect for a variety of public spaces, including mass transit, health care facilities, prisons and jails, homeless shelters and schools.
State lawmakers in both parties over the last several days have called for precise metrics for how and when mask rules in schools would end. Hochul has said the state will be watching COVID-19 cases after the February break, set to begin next week for many schools in the state, as a determining factor.
A decision will likely come in early March. But as other northeastern states, typically more cautious with pandemic mitigation efforts, have started to fully repeal mask rules, Hochul has said she will take a more deliberate approach.
"This is still an ongoing, dangerous pandemic," she said.