A Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) logo is displayed on the side of a subway train in Manhattan, New York on June 2, 2021.
Ed Jones | AFP | Getty Images
New Yorkers are no longer required to wear masks on subways, buses and other mass transit, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday.
Hochul said the decision to end the mandate takes effect immediately. The governor said New York is in a much stronger place as infections and hospitalizations decline. New boosters that the target the dominant omicron subvariant BA.5. should also offer better protection against Covid, she said.
“We do believe that we’re in a good place right now, especially if New Yorkers take advantage of this booster. That is how we get back to not just a new normal, but a normal normal, and that is what we’re striving for,” Hochul said during a news conference.
The governor received her omicron booster shot during the press conference.
New York instituted mask mandates on public transit more than two years ago when the city was the epicenter of Covid in the U.S. Many New Yorkers started ignoring the mandate in the spring after near universal compliance early in the pandemic.
Masks are still required in nursing homes, hospitals and other health-care facilities licensed by the state, Hochul said.
States and cities have largely lifted Covid era restrictions as vaccines and antiviral treatments have become widely available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also eased its Covid guidance, largely relying on individuals to decide what precautions they should take based on their health history and how much Covid is spreading in their communities.
The CDC has said Covid now poses a much lower threat to public health due to high levels of immunity in the population from vaccination and infection and the availability of treatments.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett on Wednesday said the omicron boosters should provide better protection against infection since the shots now match the dominant variant, though there’s no data on the effectiveness of the shots yet.
“If it’s been more than two months since you got your last shot, you’re 12 or over, you should get boosted and this time it can be with a booster that we think will provide people with a lot more protection,” Bassett said.
The CDC approved the new boosters last week. Pfizer’s omicron shots are available for people ages 12 and older, while Moderna’s shots are for adults ages 18 and older. More than 90% of Americans will be within five miles of a location that offers the boosters by the end of the week, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.