8 Sep 2022

New York state ends 28-month mask mandate on public transport

12:54 pm on 8 September 2022
People wear a face masks in Midtown Manhattan in New York on July 29 2021.

People wear a face masks in Midtown Manhattan in New York on July 29 2021. Photo: Kena Betancur / AFP

New York state is ending a 28-month-old Covid-19 mandate requiring masks on public transport, Governor Kathy Hochul says.

Masks would also no longer be required in airports and ride-share vehicles, Hochul said.

The state introduced the mandate in April 2020 as the virus was spreading throughout New York City.

But now wearing masks would be optional, the governor said, citing recent guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We have to restore some normalcy to our lives," Hochul said. "Masks are encouraged but optional."

She said New York was in a far stronger position as infections and hospitalisations fell.

"It's always been a visible reminder that something is not normal here, and it was there for the right reason. It protected health and now we're in a far different place."

Mask requirements were also being lifted for homeless shelters and prisons, the governor said.

However, masks are still required in nursing homes, hospitals and other health-care facilities licensed by the state.

In April, President Joe Biden decided to stop enforcing a nationwide mask mandate on public transport after a federal judge in Florida ruled the directive was unlawful, but New York decided to continue with the rule.

Many New Yorkers then started ignoring the mandate despite widespread compliance early in the pandemic.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief executive Janno Lieber told a news conference it had become "more and more difficult to justify and to enforce a mask requirement as so much of the city and so many other places were opening up".

At one point, New York was the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US.

There have been more than six million cases in New York state and 71,222 people have lost their lives to the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

About 78 percent of the state's population have been fully vaccinated.


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