New York state is ending a 28-month-old Covid mandate requiring masks on public transport, Governor Kathy Hochul says.
Masks will also no longer be required in airports and ride-share vehicles, she added.
The state introduced the mandate in April 2020 as the virus was spreading throughout New York City.
But now wearing masks will be optional, the governor said, citing recent guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We have to restore some normalcy to our lives,” Ms Hochul said. “Masks are encouraged but optional.”
She added that New York is in a far stronger position as infections and hospitalisations fall.
“It’s always been a visible reminder that something is not normal here, and it was there for the right reason. It protected health and now we’re in a far different place.”
Mask requirements are also being lifted for homeless shelters and prisons, the governor said.
However, masks are still required in nursing homes, hospitals and other health-care facilities licensed by the state.
In April, President Joe Biden decided to stop enforcing a nationwide mask mandate on public transport after a federal judge in Florida ruled the directive was unlawful, but New York decided to continue with the rule.
Many New Yorkers then started ignoring the mandate despite widespread compliance early in the pandemic.
Compliance was spotty – to put it mildly
By Natalie Sherman, BBC News, New York
Whatever the health rationale of her decision, Kathy Hochul’s move to end the mask mandate was not surprising given the facts on the ground. Compliance with the rule has been spotty, to put it kindly, for months.
Renegades used to receive dirty looks or be given wide berths. But this week – as commuters facing renewed return-to-office calls crammed into subway cars – perhaps half of riders were masked, with people making little differentiation between masked and unmasked.
In fact, for some, the biggest surprise of Wednesday’s announcement may have been that the mandate was still in place, when so many others have long since lapsed.
Whether people will return to masking voluntarily as winter sets in remains to be seen. But for now, the decision simply formalises a regime that has already been largely in place.