Democratic candidate for governor Tom Suozzi in an interview with WNYC on Thursday said he would back an end to mandatory masking on public transit systems in New York state after a federal judge removed the requirement for air travel and Amtrak. 

Mask rules remain in effect in New York on local bus transit systems as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in the New York City region. 

"I would remove the mandates, I would leave it up to personal responsibility and I would do a lot better job of educating people about why they need to get vaccines and boosters and educating people about why masks are effective and if you're afraid, you should wear a mask."

Suozzi called the debate surrounding pandemic mitigation measures toxic and divisive, and said he encouraged people to wear masks. But mandates "are a problem in this current environment," he said. 

"Nobody's listening, it's just based on your party," Suozzi said. "We should get back to educating people." 

Gov. Kathy Hochul clarified the rule on Wednesday during a visit to SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, but suggested the mandate could be lifted. Mask rules remain in effect for prisons, jails, homeless and domestic violence shelters and in state-run health care facilities. 

"So we're going to continue, in the short term, again, for public transit, our correctional facilities, our nursing homes, health care settings, domestic violence centers, buses and train stations, let's just be smart about it," Hochul said. "You know, I think people do feel better when they're in public transit, sitting really close to somebody, to know that people are protected themselves. And again this is very much in the short term."

Some areas of New York have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, and public health officials have pointed to two new versions of the omicron variant of COVID-19 as the reason for the rise in cases.