Local, state leaders react to new mask rules from Hochul

Here are some of the statements coming into NewsChannel 13, after Gov. Hochul announced a decision to drop a mask mandate for businesses on Thursday. It will still remain in effect at schools, homeless shelters, in nursing homes and on public transportation.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (presumptive Republican nominee for governor):
"It’s pretty sick that Kathy Hochul still isn’t lifting her statewide mask mandate on kids in school. Her power trip never ends, & while her illegal mask mandate on adults is ending, she remains hell-bent on totally controlling the lives of our kids. End ALL COVID mandates now!"

Rep. Elise Stefanik:
"Kathy Hochul’s hypocrisy is showing. The science is clear – children are the least vulnerable to COVID-19, but Kathy Hochul refuses to lift mask mandates in schools and continues to enforce the masking of even Pre-K students. Even though multiple Democrat Governors across the Northeast have dropped their mandates, Governor Hochul is forcing three-year-olds to wear masks. It is past time for these authoritarian mandates to end, but to Kathy Hochul, this is clearly about politics, not New York families."

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt:
"The end of the ‘business mask mandate’ is long overdue. But it is absolutely outrageous that Governor Hochul is extending her mask mandate for school children, with no established off-ramp. The public deserves to know which metrics and so-called science her administration used to make this misguided decision."

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay:
"Gov. Hochul’s decision to lift the statewide indoor mask mandate is long past due and welcome news. However, dropping it some places but not others makes little sense."

National Federation of Independent Businesses:
"This is welcome news for New York’s small businesses and our communities, which for nearly two years now have wrestled with ever-changing and taxing public health mandates. Governor Hochul’s announcement that the indoor mask or vaccine mandate will be lifted is necessary and prudent as other states, including our neighboring states, are easing restrictions and finding a way back to normal. Small businesses have endured statewide shutdowns, business restrictions, and unparalleled disruptions that have wreaked havoc on our Main Streets and economy. Miraculously, many hardworking and dedicated small business owners have managed to persevere and keep their doors open. With the absence of federal assistance and relief, significant labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and rampant inflation, small businesses still face a great deal of uncertainty and no shortage of trials ahead. Today’s announcement is hopefully the end of COVID-related business restrictions and the beginning of Main Street’s economic revival and the revitalization of small businesses and local jobs."

Assemblyman Mike Lawler:
"While Governor Hochul is spiking the football on her ‘lifting’ of the mask mandate the week of the Super Bowl, it’s galling that our children are still being stifled by a school mask mandate that many other surrounding states will no longer require. In New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and dozens of other states, school mask mandates are being lifted, but not in New York? It makes zero sense." "With vaccines widely available, masking as an option for those who choose it, and our infection rate plummeting, the real question we should be asking is what is Governor Hochul waiting for? Once again, Kathy and her administration are ignoring the science and playing politics with this pandemic. Give control back to the local school districts, let our kids be themselves again, and lift this school mask mandate now."

Business Council of New York State:
"As protecting public health remains our top concern, we also appreciate the Governor’s efforts to assure that state policies reflect ever-changing COVID levels. Throughout the pandemic, employers have taken the necessary safety precautions and followed state and federal guidelines to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. We hope new policies will encourage New Yorkers to continue to support New York businesses still recovering from the pandemic."

Heather Briccetti Esq.
President and CEO
The Business Council of New York State

Sen. Daphne Jordan:
"Reports that Governor Hochul is finally lifting her indoor mask mandate imposed on businesses is long overdue and welcome news for countless small businesses that have struggled under the weight of the Governor’s unconstitutional, costly edict. Now, as COVID cases have thankfully cratered, it’s well past time for Governor Hochul to follow the science and rescind her mask mandate on schools. We need to remove this mandate and unmask our kids so they can – after two incredibly long, difficult years – finally have a normal school day. Governor Hochul needs to stop the bureaucratic delays and follow the science, follow the facts, and follow the lead of states like New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and so many others that are making masking voluntary. The time has come to unmask our kids and get back to normal!"

Sen. Peter Oberacker:

"Dropping the mask mandate for businesses was long overdue. Case numbers have been declining steadily for some time along with the severity of the virus.

"But once again it’s half a loaf from our governor. The mask mandate for schools remains, without a clear blueprint on when it will be dropped or what metrics are driving this decision. If there is real science to back up this decision, let’s hear it.

"I will keep up the fight against this and other overreaching government mandates that fail to make sense."

Rep. Mary Beth Walsh

"[Wednesday], Gov. Hochul announced the expiration of her mask mandate for businesses statewide. While welcome news, this announcement was both too little and too late. Despite governors in neighboring states, such as Connecticut and New Jersey, giving kids, parents and school administrators a concrete timeline as to when they will lift the mask mandate in schools, our governor continues to take a confusing, wait-and-see approach. With COVID-19 rates drastically dropping and vaccination rates on the rise, there is no reason to delay this decision making until after mid-winter break.

"As evidenced by this morning’s student protest at Ballston Spa High School, our kids are sick and tired of the mask mandate. Treating students the same as nursing home residents – two very different populations with statistically different outcomes from the virus – is confusing and irrational. Students, teachers, administrators and staff who wish to continue wearing masks may continue to do so if they so choose. However, we must learn to live with this virus in our state and return to some sense of normalcy.

"The governor’s plan to send thousands and thousands of test kits home with kids both before and after the mid-winter break is an illogical approach to determining the fate of mask mandates in schools. Rapid testing is an imperfect snapshot of positivity rates alone and does not speak to the reality that most people who contract Omicron have mild cases and many do not know they have it at all.

"This arbitrary governance that does not consult with the Legislature, a co-equal branch of government, only continues to hinder our state’s recovery. The inconsistency in directives only provides confusion for our constituents. We are no longer in a state of emergency even though Gov. Hochul and her administration continue to govern like we are."