With COVID rates declining quickly, Governor Hochul has lifted New York State’s mask or vax mandate for indoor spaces. (Mask requirements remain in effect, for now, in certain higher-density or higher-risk settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and mass transit, while schools will be reevaluated in March.) In light of the State’s action, New Rochelle is lifting the local mask mandate that has applied to City Hall.
Barring the emergence of more dangerous variants and the special consideration that must still be afforded to the medically vulnerable, a new normal may now be upon us, in which COVID simply becomes background noise – no longer an acute crisis, but instead a chronic risk that we manage without excessive disruption to our lives, like many other risks. This is not the definitive end to the pandemic for which many of us had hoped, and certainly feels nothing like the victory over polio or smallpox, but with a significant majority vaccinated, the Omicron wave imparting some measure of natural immunity, and effective tools to prevent serious illness widely available, this may be the closest thing to an “end” that is realistically attainable.