New York, Illinois Latest Democratic-Led States to Halt COVID-19 Policies

The governors of New York and Illinois are expected to announce the halting or easing of some COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday, CNN reported, making them the latest Democratic state leaders to roll back measures aimed at containing the virus.

Three people briefed on the decision told the New York Times that New York Governor Kathy Hochul will end the state's strict masking guidelines for businesses. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is also expected to announce plans to end the state's indoor mask mandate in most public places, though masking in schools will still be required, according to WLS, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times.

The anticipated moves by Hochul and Pritzker, both Democrats, will have them join some of their Republican counterparts in other states who have eased COVID restrictions. They will also join several other Democratic governors who have already eased restrictions or announced plans to do so.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom is preparing to scale down the state's restrictions and rules on masking indoors and large gatherings. The state's definition of a so-called "mega event," which comes with certain requirements regarding masking, vaccination proof and testing, will increase to 1,000 attendees for indoor mega events and 10,000 attendees for outdoor mega events on February 16, according to the website for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

NY, Illinois Halt COVID Policies
The governors of New York and Illinois are expected to announce the halting or easing of some mask-releated COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday, making them the latest Democratic-led states to roll back measures aimed at containing the virus. Above, New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks onstage at the 36th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Brooklyn Academy of Music on January 17, 2022, in New York City. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Brooklyn Academy of Music

California's masking guidance will also be updated on the same day so that universal masking will be required only in certain settings and only the unvaccinated will have to wear masks in all indoor public settings, while the fully vaccinated are recommended to wear masks indoors only when there is a high risk, according to the CDPH.

Despite the changes, Newsom said that school mask mandates would still be in place for now, according to Politico.

Phil Murphy, the Democratic governor of New Jersey, announced on Monday that he would be ending the state's school mask mandate.

"We're not going to manage COVID to zero," Murphy said. "We have to learn how to live with COVID as we move from a pandemic to the endemic phase of this virus."

The governors of Connecticut, Delaware and Oregon also announced on Monday that they would be ending statewide mask mandates, instead leaving the decision to local districts.

New York's mask mandate for businesses is set to expire on Thursday, and Hochul said on Tuesday that she planned to make an announcement regarding the mandate on Wednesday, CNN reported.

As for New York's school mask mandate, Hochul's health chief, Dr. Mary Bassett, said during a remote joint legislative hearing on Tuesday that "no decision" had been made about when the mandate would end.

Pritzker also hinted recently that COVID guidelines could be changing soon, WLS reported.

Newsweek reached out to Pritzker's office for comment.

Update 2/9/22, 10:24 a.m.: This article was updated with additional background information on the expected announcements from Hochul and Pritzker, as well as COVID restrictions in some other U.S. states.