More states have announced plans to relax public health measures as this winter’s devastating Omicron wave of coronavirus infections continues to ebb — unevenly — across the United States. On Wednesday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said he will lift a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools at the end of February. Democratic governors in Illinois and Rhode Island also announced they will roll back mask mandates for indoor public gatherings. Here in New York, Governor Kathy Hochul said the lifting of an indoor mask-or-vaccine mandate today marks a “new phase in this pandemic.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul: “Overall cases are down, positivity rate’s down, hospitalizations are down, cases per 100,000 are down, and new additions are down. That is a beautiful picture. That may be one of my favorite slides. Vaccines and boosters are up, and our hospital capacity. So, New Yorkers, this is what we’ve been waiting for.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. reported nearly 3,600 new deaths from COVID-19. Hospitalizations remain high but have dropped below September’s peak of infections from the Delta variant. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday her agency was looking into updating and reviewing its guidance.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky: “But at this time, we continue to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission — that’s much of the country right now — in public indoor settings.”
CDC data show more than 99% of counties across the United States are currently considered “high risk” for transmission.