mask mandates

On Wednesday, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced that mask mandates will not be renewed as they expire on Thursday. The news comes just two weeks after a court battle for the state to uphold its decision to enforce the use of masks. The number of cases in the state has dropped significantly in recent weeks, however, medical professionals including the CDC remain hesitant to support lifting mask mandates at this juncture. 

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul

On Tuesday, New York reported its lowest case count for the previous week since November 30. Lower case numbers are a strong indicator that the Omicron wave is beginning to subside. While masks will no longer be necessary for most public places, they will still need to be worn by everyone on public transit.

New York is not the first state to announce that mask mandates will be lifted in public indoor places. On Feb 7, state officials from California, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Oregon had all already mentioned that indoor mask mandates will be lifted for public places and school settings in the near future. 

New Jersey will no longer require mask use at schools beginning on March 7, and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont confirmed that their requirement for masks indoors would end on Feb 28. Delaware’s approach is more tentative with masks in schools no longer required after March 31.

In California, masks will still be required for unvaccinated people in indoor public places when mandatory mask usage for vaccinated people ends for most situations on Feb 16. Local restrictions will still take precedence though, with counties like Los Angeles and San Francisco continuing to require masks.

Illinois is also expected to lift mask mandates in the coming weeks, although schools are still to require mask usage for now.

CDC against lifting restrictions yet

While many Americans are looking forward to seeing faces in public for the first time in weeks, the director at the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, is unconvinced it’s the right time to let the guard down. Walensky said in a Reuters interview on Tuesday, “I know people are interested in taking masks off. I too am interested. That would be one marker that we have much of the pandemic behind us. Right now, our CDC guidance has not changed. … We continue to endorse universal masking in schools.”

Some normalcy for the auto industry

The announcements of loosening restrictions are welcomed by many, including the auto industry. Manufacturing and assembly jobs staffed by unionized workers are mostly free from vaccination requirements as well, and the ability to remove masks would return most to a sense of normalcy they haven’t felt in months. 

For the retail auto industry, lack of mask mandates alleviates stress from enforcement situations that few were prepared to handle. No longer policing staff and customers for proper PPE usage will be a breath of fresh air for management. 

However, dealers and other auto industry professionals should still keep a close eye on their workplaces since COVID-19 isn’t disappearing anytime soon. Proper physical distancing is still encouraged, frequent handwashing is crucial, and promoting a health-centric workplace with staff-friendly options for sick employees will go a long way.

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