Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to announce the end of New York’s indoor mask mandate at a briefing this morning.
The governor is expected to announce that the mandate, which is set to expire tomorrow, will not be renewed, according to reports in the New York Times and other media.
The fate of the state’s mask mandate for schools has not been decided, State Commissioner of Health Mary Bassett said yesterday. That mandate expires in two weeks.
Riverhead School Superintendent Dr. Augustine Tornatore said at last night’s school board meeting the governor has explicitly stated the mask mandate for schools would continue through at least the February break.” Once the state mandate is lifted, the district would decide whether to make masks optional in local schools. Riverhead’s reopening plan, adopted last summer, currently requires masks in all school buildings.
The authority of the state executive branch to impose the mandate is currently being litigated. A Nassau County Supreme Court judge last month ruled the health commissioner lacked legal authority to impose the mandate. The state has appealed the ruling and a State Appellate Division panel imposed a stay on the lower court ruling pending the appeal, as long as the appeal is perfected — finalized — by the state by March 2.
COVID-19 infections continue to decline from the peak reached earlier this winter, as the highly contagious omicron variant set case records in the region. The decline in the past month has been sharp.
On Jan. 7, the test percent-positive rate in Suffolk was 26.7% and the number of cases per 100,000 people was 472. On Feb. 7 those numbers had fallen to 4.9% and 16.5 per 100k.
Over that time period, there were 1,194 new confirmed cases in Riverhead Town. The town’s total tally rose from 6,838 on Jan. 7 to 8,032 on Feb. 7.
The new-case numbers reflect laboratory-confirmed tests and do not include rapid test results.
Infections among school-age children living in the Riverhead Central School District have likewise fallen. On Jan. 7, there were 262 new cases reported in the prior 14-day period. On Feb. 7, that number had fallen to 19. Total confirmed cases since Sept. 1 were 653 as of Feb.7. These numbers, reported by the state health department reflect cases among children ages 5-17 who live within the district, whether they attend Riverhead public schools or not.
COVID hospitalizations and new daily admissions have also dropped: from 948 hospitalized and 184 new admissions on Jan. 7 to 358 hospitalized and 26 new admissions on Feb. 7.
As of Monday, 4,276 Suffolk residents have died as a result of COVID-19 infection, according to N.Y. State Department of Health data.
The current test percent-positive rate is approximately what it was were just before Thanksgiving, which was also just before the omicron variant was confirmed in New York. It is also about the same as at the beginning of the school year, when the test percent-positive rate was also just under 5%.
The test percent-positive rate was 5.8% a year ago, on Feb. 7, 2021. It declined to below 2% last May and remained there until the delta variant fueled a summer surge in late July. Case numbers remained elevated, compared to summer and fall 2020, due to the delta surge and then skyrocketed when omicron arrived.
On Feb. 7, 2021, the COVID death toll in Suffolk was 2,885, according to health department data. In the year since, the county recorded another 1,391 deaths — one-third of its total fatalities in the pandemic.
Correction: This story has been amended to correct the date by which the state I required to perfect its appeal of the Nassau County Supreme Court decision. It is March 2, not March 3.
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