Cuomo: Counties, cities can issue mask mandates in schools; Orange County's 'red zones' will become 'orange zones'

Andrew Cuomo
Photo credit Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- New York state will start letting local governments issue mask mandates in schools, and Orange County’s COVID-19 “red zones” will become “orange zones,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

In a teleconference Wednesday morning, Cuomo said counties and cities will be allowed to require students at schools in their jurisdictions to wear face coverings. Up until Wednesday, the state had left that decision to local school districts.

“I spoke with [Westchester] County Executive George Latimer, who’s a very good guy, and he asked, ‘Can the county impose a mask mandate on the students in schools in the county?’” he said. “And I agreed. I think the county executive is right.”

The state will also lift some restrictions in Orange County’s “red zone” COVID-19 hotspot, as its infection rate has dropped from 12 percent to 2 percent.

“That’s obviously dramatic progress, and the hospitalization number is flat, so the red zone will go to orange. The yellow zone will stay yellow,” Cuomo said.

Red zones in other parts of New York state, including Brooklyn and Queens, will not see any restrictions lifted yet, he noted.

“There has been progress in other areas in microclusters, but nothing, at this point, that would cause us to change any classifications this week,” he said.

New York state’s COVID-19 microclusters, which include the red zones, reported a combined infection rate of 3.78 percent on Tuesday, Cuomo said. The state’s infection rate excluding the microclusters was 1.37 percent.

Of the 129,660 COVID-19 test results that came back throughout the state on Tuesday, 2,031, or 1.56 percent, were positive, he said.

“Nationwide, our positivity rate, we are now the second-lowest in the United States of America,” he said. “We’ve actually made progress nationwide.”

As of Wednesday, Maine was the only state reporting a lower infection rate than New York, according to COVID-19 data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with COVID-19 ticked up slightly, from 1,083 on Monday to 1,085 on Tuesday. Two hundred and thirty-six of those patients were in intensive care units, Cuomo noted.

The governor also reported 15 new COVID-19 deaths.