Thousands of city workers also face termination over vaccination requirement
NEW YORK (WABC) -- The indoor mask mandate in New York State expired on Thursday, but that doesn't mean New Yorkers can go completely mask-free.
That means masks no longer have to be worn inside hotels, stores, pharmacies, offices and grocery stores -- as long as the local government and business says it's OK.
"We want to make sure that every business knows this is your prerogative and individuals who want to continue wearing masks, continue wearing masks," said Gov. Kathy Hochul.
However masks are still required at a number of places statewide -- including schools, public transportation, state health care settings, nursing homes, correctional facilities and homeless shelters.
New York City will maintain its citywide mandates, Key to NYC, that require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, theaters, museums, gyms and arenas.
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If you're in New York City and unvaccinated, the requirement remains that you must always be masked in public settings.
"I suspect that I walk the streets of New York City as I often do, I'm still going to see a lot of people wearing masks because they will feel safer," Hochul said. "That is something that they are very, very welcome and encouraged to do."
As for the roughly 4,000 city employees facing termination Friday if they aren't fully vaccinated, Mayor Eric Adams says some have now submitted their proof of vaccination.
As for the rest of them, he said it's their decision.
"We are not firing them, people are quitting, the responsibility is clear," Adams said. "We said it, if you were hired, you get this job, you have to be vaccinated. If you are not following the rules, you are making that decision. You are making the decision that you are not going to follow the rules of getting vaccinate. and that is a decision they are making."
As of Thursday, 95% of city workers had at least one vaccine dose, up from 84% in October when the mandate was announced.
NYPD and the Department of Corrections are holding at about 88% vaccinated. The FDNY and Department of Sanitation are both at 95%.
The UFT says about 700 teachers face dismissal on Friday.
Overall, the mayor says the city's vaccination rate is at 75%.
Meanwhile, when it comes to masking in schools, the mandate remains in place across New York State, but the governor promising to take a look at the mandate at the end of the month.
"We have a little more work to do with the younger kids," Hochul said. "I think we can do better."
NYC's Department of Education has also established mask requirements in its plan for the current school year that remain in effect.
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The state currently has 4,600 hospitalizations, down 63% from the peak. Hochul noted that hospitals are still quite full, but thanks to help by the National Guard, most hospitals have at least 20% capacity available.
She added that she would like to see more children and young people vaccinated. So far, 70% of teens fully vaccinated in the state, but just 38.8% of kids ages 5-11 have gotten their first dose.
The governor said that with the state's children going on a week-long break starting February 21, she wants to make sure kids are safe.
She wants kids take a provided at-home COVID test before going back to school and then again three days later.
The state plans to look at the positivity rate in the schools and within the state, including hospital admissions.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew released the following statement:
"We are all excited about the possibility of lifting these restrictions, but Governor Hochul's thoughtful and prudent approach is the right one."
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