The New York State statewide indoor mask mandate expired this past Thursday as Governor Kathy Hochul announced she would not renew it. The mask mandate in public schools, however, is still in effect. The announcement comes as blue states all across the country — who have been strict to this point in the pandemic with their mask mandates — have been rolling their mandates back, as well. Additionally, this comes as cases from the Omicron variant have dramatically declined both state- and nationwide.
While this certainly seems like an indication of a return to normalcy and an end to the pandemic, many are still wary. While Hochul said that the decision was made in accordance with the Biden administration and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the CDC, said Tuesday on the topic of the rollback of mask mandates that it is “not the moment” to begin to let up. Still, Hochul said, “The numbers are trending much better and there definitely is an end in sight,” a note of optimism that has led to this and decisions like it. Additionally, the state health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, said that the topic of mandates has “become a polarized conversation even within the medical community.” From this point forward in the pandemic, state health officials say, in short, that there is no clear-cut way forward, and that Hochul is taking the way toward normalcy.
The end of the mandate also comes in the middle of an election year, so the question naturally arises as to the motivation behind the decision, especially as the public grows weary of masks. Regardless of motivation, this will inevitably have a major impact on the lives of people all throughout the state, which includes Buffalo and Canisius.
What this means for the Canisius campus specifically is not clear, as Canisius is not run by the state. But, being a private institution, the end of the mandate opens up the door for Canisius to change its mandate. In an email sent late Thursday, Canisius President John Hurley said that for the time being, “The college’s mask mandate is still in force,” and that he “anticipates that we will have revised guidance to share … early next week.” Whatever happens, this is undoubtedly a major day in the history of the pandemic.