Democrats Realize That Americans Are Done With COVID Rules

New York is set to drop its indoor mask mandate, as Democrat-led states appear keen to move on with life beyond the coronavirus pandemic, which a poll has shown has caused frustration among voters across the political divide.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is due to announce on Wednesday an end to the COVID mitigation measures, according to The New York Times as one public health expert told Newsweek, "it makes sense to have an off-ramp for mandates now."

Thursday will see the expiration of the rule requiring businesses in New York State to demand customers have proof of vaccination and wear masks indoors, except when eating or drinking.

While it is not clear if Hochul will renew or drop a separate mask mandate for schools that expires on February 21, the move comes as polls have suggested that two years on from its outbreak, Americans are done with the pandemic and want to move on.

A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) in January suggested that nearly three-quarters of Americans were fed up with the coronavirus.

The sentiment was split evenly among voters, with 74 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans "tired when it comes to the pandemic" according to the survey of 1,536 adults between January 11 and 23 with a margin of error of 3 percent. Four-fifths (80 percent) of Independent voters also felt tired of COVID.

A poll by Monmouth University in January found that 70 percent of people agreed "it's time we accept COVID is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives."

In quick succession, Democrat-led states have announced an ending to mitigation measures, citing lower infection numbers as the Omicron wave that swept across the U.S. in the last few months has started to recede.

On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an end to the state's indoor mask mandate for vaccinated people from February 15, although it is up to local jurisdictions to make their own decision on the rule. Los Angeles County will keep the restrictions in place.

New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy, a Democrat, said his state would no longer require students and school employees to wear masks, which is against the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The policy would take effect on March 7, signaling a shift in the divisive debate around mask wearing in schools.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said he recommended ending the statewide mask mandate in schools and childcare centers from February 28 and would leave decisions on mask requirements in schools to local officials.

In Delaware, Governor John Carney said that public and private K-12 mask mandates would expire on March 31 meaning there are just over a dozen states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have not ended student mask requirements.

Other cities and states may wind down mandates soon. Boston mayor Michelle Wu said she would lift proof-of-vaccine requirements if hospitalizations and case numbers continued to fall.

"It makes sense to have an off-ramp for mandates now, and allow people as much normalcy as possible before another variant threatens to upend our lives again," said Dr. Leana Wen, professor of health policy and management at George Washington University.

"Pandemic restrictions were always meant to end at the soonest possibility," she told Newsweek, pointing to rapidly declining COVID cases, the protection that vaccines give and the fact that hospitals are no longer overwhelmed.

Moving past pandemic measures will allow Democrats to focus on issues such as the economy and personal finances, which will be key at the ballot box for the midterm elections.

"There's no doubt that, even among more liberal voters, patience for stringent COVID measures is wearing thin," said Thomas Gift, founding director of University College London's Centre on U.S. Politics.

"The decision of many Democratic governors to relax rules on protocols like indoor mask-wearing in part reflects changing circumstances with the virus but it's also a political response to general COVID fatigue," he told Newsweek.

"Democrats are staring down elections in less than a year, and few think that continuing to impose restrictive mandates has much of a political upshot."

Regardless of the health and scientific arguments about easing COVID measures, Gift said, "Democrats clearly see the writing on the wall, and it's no surprise that they don't want to give Republicans more ammunition on this issue."

Masks worn at Apple store New York
People at an Apple store wear masks in The Oculus in Lower Manhattan on December 13, 2021 in New York City. Mask mandates across New York state are set to end. Spencer Plat/Getty