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Connecticut and New Jersey announced the end of mask mandates. Could New York be next?

New York Governor Kathy Hochul
Mary Altaffer
Associated Press
New York Governor Kathy Hochul

New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s extension of the state’s mask mandate will expire on Thursday. This comes after Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced the state would end its mask mandate on Feb. 28.

Lamont’s pandemic emergency powers end next week. He’s asking lawmakers to extend 11 of them, including the statewide school mask mandate.

The governor said he’s encouraged that about 90% of state residents are now either boosted or exposed to some level of COVID-19 immunity.

“And that’s why I think now is the time to say the statewide mask mandate is no longer at our level. Each and every mayor, each and every superintendent can make that call for themselves," Lamont said.

Lamont said the end of the month coincides with schools returning from winter break. Republicans have been against any extension of Lamont’s executive powers. But some parents and teachers unions have argued that the school mandate should be continued because of poor ventilation in many schools.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy will also end the state's mask mandate on March 7.

Hochul has signaled that New York’s mask mandate could be done away with entirely with COVID-19 infection rates dropping. She is expected to make a decision in the next few days.

Cases and hospitalizations continue on the decline

New York’s daily COVID-19 positivity rate is down to 4.4%, down from an Omicron peak of 23% just over a month ago.

On Long Island, Suffolk County hospitals are at 75% bed capacity with 18% of beds occupied by coronavirus patients. Prosecutors and police on Long Island are investigating two nurses who were accused of forging COVID-19 vaccination cards and pocketing more than $1.5 million from the scheme.

Connecticut’s daily COVID-19 positivity rate is around 6.5%, which is almost a full percentage point less than the beginning of last week. The state has distributed another 900,000 COVID-19 self-tests to schools and other organizations across the state. About 4.5 million were delivered in January after procurement problems before the new year.

Fewer than 800 Connecticut residents are hospitalized with COVID-19. The state is down to averaging about 120 new coronavirus patients per week. However, Connecticut hospitals are at about 80% bed capacity with only 10% of the beds occupied by coronavirus patients.

Of the coronavirus patients hospitalized, fewer than half are fully vaccinated.

Pfizer asked the U.S. FDA on February 1 to authorize extra-low doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 years old. This could potentially open the way for the youngest Americans to start receiving shots as early as March.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.
As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.