Gov. Kathy Hochul speaking at a press conference today in Melville, with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Courtesy photo.

New York State’s mask mandate for indoor public spaces has been extended until Feb. 10, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced during a storm briefing on Long Island Friday.

The mask mandate was ordered in December in reaction to an increase in cases, hospitalization, and the anticipation of a winter surge led by the omicron variant. It was originally scheduled to end on Jan. 15, before being extended to Feb. 1. The mask mandate is required for any indoor public spaces that do not require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter.

Hochul noted during her remarks that the trend of COVID-19 infection in New York is “much more positive” and that the mandate has been a “critical tool” in guiding the rate of infection downwards. Hochul said that going forward the state will extend their mask mandate in two week intervals. 

“If we keep on that rapid trend downward we’ll be in a good place,” she said. “If it levels off or something else happens — I need that flexibility.”

COVID-19 infections hit a major spike this past month, with test positivity rates reaching more than 23% on Long Island. Cases began to drop the past few weeks and New York State currently sits around an 8% test positivity rate average. 

The decision to extend the mandate follows a decision by a Nassau County Supreme Court judge who ruled on Monday that the mandate was implemented unconstitutionally. An appellate court judge granted a stay on the decision Wednesday after Attorney General Letitia James filed an appeal on behalf of the state. The legal challenges sparked a protest Thursday in front of Riverhead High School against the mandate.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]