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Hochul hints mask mandate may be ending before long

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Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
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Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at the University at Buffalo in this file photo.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul hinted Monday that she may soon end the COVID-19 pandemic-related statewide mask mandate for public indoor spaces, but it may not come for another month.

The news came on the same day that Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, citing plunging infection numbers, said his state’s mask mandate for schoolchildren will end in mid-March.

New York's current mask mandate for indoor public spaces, including shops, offices, restaurants, and theaters, expires on Thursday. Hochul said she will make her own announcement before then about the future of the mandates, saying she’s encouraged by declining infection rates and fewer hospitalizations.

“I’ll be making another announcement on Wednesday about one of our mask or vaccination requirements that are in place, and have been in place since early to mid-December,” Hochul said.

Hochul also hinted, that like the rules change in New Jersey, the mandates might not end right away.

“I’m going to continue to head in that direction. We are hoping to get to that,” Hochul said. “That is our goal. But I am going to continue looking at the metrics.”

Hochul said she’s also looking at the ongoing mask mandate in the state’s schools. She said more children need to be vaccinated before any decisions can be made. She said just 34% of 5- to 11-year-olds have received the shots.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.