ALBANY, N.Y. (WENY)- New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced Sunday, she is ending the statewide mask mandate for schools. Beginning Wednesday, March 2nd students and educators no longer are required to wear a mask.

The Governor says she made this decision based on the analysis of several key COVID data trends. With COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continuing to decrease, and after consulting with public health and education officials Hochul says we have come a long way and have reached a milestone.

"Given the decline in our rates our hospitalizations, strong vaccination rates and the CDC guidance, my friends the day has come, today we are announcing we are lifting the statewide mandate in schools," Hochul said. 

Hospitalizations have been trending downward for over a month and are below 2,000 since November. The State positivity rate is below two percent at 1.88%. 

"Hospitalizations have been my nightmare, we are 48 days of a consecutive downward trend  since November 14th. The State positivity rate is below two percent. These positive trends are a result of New Yorkers' hard work and dedication to protecting one another," Hochul said.

The rule applies to kids 2 years and older as well as school staff.  New York State has close to 3 million schoolchildren. Hochul is allowing counties and cities to determine whether or not they would like to keep their own mandates in place, and parents could still choose to send their kids to school in masks if they choose.

"Now this is an important point to make we will make the statewide requirement based on all the data just outlined however there are some counties in the state of New York that have a higher rate of transmission, we will allow them the flexibility to determine what's best for their county, we would encourage them to take a look at this and follow the CDC but this will no longer be a mandate," Hochul said.

On Friday the CDC announced an update to their mask guidance. They have determined with high levels of vaccination and high levels of population immunity from both vaccination and infections, the risk of contracting COVID, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 is greatly reduced for most people. The CDC further stated with 70% of the US population in an area with low or medium COVID-19 community levels, there is no recommendation for indoor masking unless you are at an increased risk of COVID then you should consult with your doctor about wearing a mask.