New York state has ended its COVID-19 face covering mandate for most indoor public settings, though masking rules for schools with remain in place for the time being.
The latest mandate for grocery and retail stores was put in place on December 10 as the Omicron variant fueled a staggering COVID infection rate unlike anything seen before in the pandemic.
As New York's COVID infection rate and hospitalization number decline rapidly, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that she would not extend the rule. It expired at midnight Thursday.
This is no declaration of victory over the virus, Hochul cautioned, but it is a result of some encouraging data.
"This fight is not over, we're not surrendering. This is not disarmament," she told reporters, "but again the trends are very, very positive."
The move comes after New Jersey announced that its mask mandate for schools would expire on March 7. The White House has also signaled a turn towards fewer restrictions on its national pandemic response plan.
Hochul expects to revisit the mask requirement for schools in the first week of March, after winter breaks end.
Masks will still be required in some places in New York, including health care facilities, shelters and public transit. Private businesses can set their own rules for employees and customers.