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NEW YORK: New York on Wednesday joined a wave of Democrat-run US states to roll back mask mandates, a symbolic step towards restoring normal life in one of the early pandemic epicenters in America.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she would not renew an indoor mask mandate for businesses when it expires on Thursday, citing a huge decline in coronavirus cases.

She said that it would be up to individual cities and businesses whether they wanted to continue to require masks indoors.

Hochul added, though, that a mask mandate for schools would remain in place for now.

Her announcement came after several states unveiled plans Monday to lift mask requirements in indoor places and schools, as coronavirus infections fall in America.

The mandate rollbacks signal a move towards a policy of accepting Covid-19 as part of everyday life.

Hochul said coronavirus cases in New York had fallen 93 percent since early January, adding that the state was “trending in a very, very good direction.”

“That is why we are now approaching a new phase in this pandemic,” she told reporters. California’s indoor mask mandate for vaccinated residents is set to end on February 15.

Unvaccinated people will still need to wear masks indoors though, said Governor Gavin Newsom.

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown has said that she will lift mask requirements no later than March 31. Delaware governor John Carney announced that his state’s indoor mask mandate will expire on Friday, and that masks in schools will end by March 31.

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy led the way for the spate of rollbacks, announcing that children and staff would not need to wear masks in schools from March 7.

Connecticut quickly followed, with Ned Lamont saying he was recommending that school boards drop mandatory mask-wearing in schools after February 28.

The lifting of the mandates still allows individual school boards to require masks if they want to.

Mask-wearing became a political battleground in the United States in the early days of the pandemic.

Many Democratic governors enforced strict mandates, while Republican-led states such as Texas and Florida banned the enforcement of face coverings.

More than 900,000 people have been killed by Covid-19 in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.

The United States is currently recording about 73,000 new cases a day, down from a peak of about 800,000 a day in early January, according to the CDC.

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