One day into the lifting of the state requirement for Covid-19 masks in public indoor spaces, Huntington residents had different responses.
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced the end of the mask mandate effective Thursday, though it is still in place for schools.
It’s “not unreasonable to do away with the mask mandate,” because infections are coming down, thanks to Covid-19 vaccinations, Dr. Adrian Popp, head of the infectious diseases department at Huntington Hospital, said.
At the CVS in Greenlawn Thursday afternoon, an unscientific survey found 11 patrons, with 8 in masks, the rest unmasked. Some wore their masks as they approached the store, while others put them on as they entered. A few others immediately removed them as they left the store.
A few patrons said outside the store that they kept them on for different reasons, but primarily because they’re concerned about the arrival of a new Covid-19 variant, or to avoid catching such illnesses as flu or common colds.
One woman said that masks irritated her skin but she would continue to wear them until, as she said adamantly, “This is all gone.”
Another said she was determined to stay healthy and that wearing a mask wasn’t a burden given the heavy price many pay after catching Covid-19. She said that masking up protected herself and her family and she would keep wearing masks until she was sure the disease was under control.
An auto parts shop owner said he was glad the mandate was gone, saying it was unnecessary because the disease ‘is no worse than the flu.”
In downtown Huntington, one store owner said about half of his customers wore masks Thursday. One store visited had 5 of 7 masked; a pizzeria had just one of four customers in masks.
Another woman who was masked while shopping at a grocery store said she was told by three customers that she didn’t have to wear a mask, but replied that she was coming down with a cold and didn’t want to spread germs. They all responded with a smile, she said, and wished her a good day. Another store she visited Thursday had a sign saying masks were needed but when she went into the store no one else was wearing one.
At shops downtown, many of the employees appeared to be masked even as some of their customers were not.
And a handful of stores retained signs telling customers to mask up to enter their stores.
Dr. Popp said that the omicron variant was quickly disappearing, as rapidly as it arrived.
“What’s changing is the positivity rate, which is coming down quite fast, and that was expected from an infectious disease perspective,” he said. “Do we still need the masks? If you balance protection with risks of getting the disease, it is getting much smaller.”
The epidemic is fading away he said. The next phase is endemic, he said. “Endemic means you’re going to see cases of Covid that occur over a prolonged period of time, not causing a wave. That’s what endemic truly means.
“Will Covid disappear from our communities. The answer is probably no. Covid will still be a part of human diseases in our community,” he said.