Elective surgeries and procedures can resume at all New York state hospitals following a sharp decline in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Thursday.

The decision comes after New York lifted its mask mandate for many indoor spaces, and is considering an end to the mask rule for schools.

An end to the mask requirement for businesses has not led to a correpsonding rise in COVID cases over the last several days, Hochul said, as confirmed cases have declined in nearly every region of the state.

Hochul late last year moved to limit elective surgeries and procedures at hospitals facing a staffed bed shortage amid a winter surge in COVID cases brought on by the highly contagious omicron variant. Many hospitals and health care networks have struggled with staffing shortages after two years of the pandemic and a vaccine requirement that led some workers to leave their jobs.

That, in turn, created a shortage of staffed beds in parts of the state corresponding with an influx of new COVID patients.

But with the surge ebbing in recent weeks, New York has moved to relax its COVID protocols re-applied due to omicron. A mask mandate for businesses was lifted last week, but remains in place for mass transit, homeless shelters, prisons and health care facilities.

Schools also continue to have mask rules in place until at least early March. Hochul on Thursday indicated the timeline for a decision as to whether the mandate will end remains the same.

She says she is assessing a variety of factors, including vaccination rates for eligible children, COVID cases and hospitalizations. Her administration is also watching for new variants on the order of omicron that could rapidly spread the virus again.

"I'm going to keep my eye on any global trends that are there," she said.