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With New Jersey And Connecticut Moving To End Mask Mandates, Will New York Be Next?

PLAINFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- There has been a shift in the fight against the pandemic in the Tri-State Area. As daily COVID-19 cases drop, school mask mandates are being lifted.

In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont has recommended the state's mask mandate end Feb. 28. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the mandate in schools will officially end March 7, saying, "We have to learn to live with COVID."

Sources tell CBS2 New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to let the state's mandate expire Thursday.

"Fantastic idea. They need to get rid of the mask mandate as soon as possible," said Jake Tran, of the West Side.

"This is good news, bro. This is amazing, I'm sorry. I'm glad the mandate is over," another man told CBS2's Dick Brennan.

Hochul had instituted the mandate, which required businesses to require masks indoors for workers and customers, when the Omicron variant began to hit hard in December, but Tuesday, the state reported its lowest weekly case rate since Nov. 30.

"Look at those numbers. That is a beautiful sight, my friends," Hochul said.

Even after the business mask mandate is lifted, masks will still be required on buses and trains.


Some New Yorkers say they will choose to keep the extra protection.

"Personally, I would keep my mask on 'cause there's all these sorts of different variants still emerging, and we just have to stay safe," said Beatrice Henriquez, of the West Side.

"I see both sides at this point, so it really comes down to what works for you and for your family," said Sabrina Reveron, of the West Side.

The governor is not ready to make a decision on kids in school wearing masks, but if numbers continue to go down, it could be lifted by the end of the month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends indoor masking in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

"I am fully confident that it will be safe to have kids take masks off in school, particularly in schools that have high vaccination rates. My worry is is that we are not quite there yet," said Dr. Megan Ranney, with the Brown University School of Public Health.

On Tuesday, CBS2 Meg Baker spoke to parents in different districts in New Jersey with very different opinions on that state's mask decision.

Masks will stay on in the Plainfield School District in Union County. Every single parent or grandparent Baker spoke to outside Maxon Middle School on Tuesday was thankful the superintendent made the decision to keep the protection in place.

"I think the masks should probably still be worn it because the superintendent sent an email telling us that Plainfield is still in the red and they are waiting for them to be lower. Then they will take the mask away," said Joe Orelin, father to a 12- and 7-year-old.

The superintendent said masks will stay on, "until union county is in the 'green level,'" which indicates a low COVID transmission. Newark, the state's largest district, will also continue masking.

"I'm actually really happy that they decided to keep the mask. I don't know if we can get back to normal as quickly as they would like us to. I really don't. I think we need the mask a little longer," Plainfield mother Jade Goins said.

Watch Meg Baker's report --

In contrast, many residents in the Monmouth County town of Middletown called for kids to be unmasked. Parents praised the end of the mandate.

"I think kids should have freedom not to wear masks, and just be a kid and have some type of normalcy," David Davidson said.

"Long overdue. I don't think the kids ever needed them. They were very low risk. I think it does more harm for them in many ways," Bobby Dent added.

It will be up to parents if they want their children to continue wearing masks. Baker asked Dr. Maurice Elias, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University, about how kids will make this transition.

"Could this cause issues in school? One kids doesn't wear a mask and another other does, in terms of bullying or anything like that?" Baker asked.

"There's one month for schools to make sure that everyone is going to respect others people's decisions. And that also includes staff that choose to wear masks, as well as kids. And the reason is that we don't know what's going on in everybody's home. We don't know who has an immunocompromised parent at or a child who is below the age of vaccination," Elias said.

He said there really needs to be a lot of compassion and understanding as children enter another new normal, after more than two years of wearing masks.


Elias also said parents should prepare their child and make sure they feel safe without wearing masks.

Medical experts say there are still situations where you might want to keep on the mask.

"It can still be a good idea to wear a mask, not necessarily to protect yourself, but to keep from spreading the coronavirus to the most vulnerable among us, people like the elderly and those with weak immune systems. Wearing a mask could help keep Nana and Pop-Pop safe from COVID," CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez said.

CBS2's John Dias and Meg Baker contributed to this report.

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