Hochul issues NY indoor mask mandate for businesses unless vaccine requirement in place

Coronavirus

NEW YORK – Gov. Kathy Hochul announced stricter COVID-19 policies on Friday, including a mask requirement for all indoor businesses and venues unless they already require proof of vaccination to enter.

Hochul said the decision to impose a mask mandate was based on state’s weekly seven-day case rate, as well as increasing hospitalization ahead of the winter surge.

“We’re entering a time of uncertainty, and we could either plateau here, or have cases rise out of control,” the governor said at a press event. “I don’t want to go back ever again to that place where people couldn’t go to their jobs safely, people couldn’t congregate, kids couldn’t go to school.”

The new requirements apply to both patrons and staff and will go into effect from Monday until at least Jan. 15, 2022, at which point the state will reassess conditions. “My plan is to make it temporary,” she said.

“As Governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy. The temporary measures I am taking today will help accomplish this through the holiday season. We shouldn’t have reached the point where we are confronted with a winter surge, especially with the vaccine at our disposal, and I share many New Yorkers’ frustration that we are not past this pandemic yet,” Hochul said in a statement. “I want to thank the more than 80 percent of New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated. If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary.”   

Businesses and venues who require proof of fully vaccinated status can accept Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State, or a CDC Vaccination Card. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being “fully vaccinated” means it has been 14 days past an individual’s last dose in their initial vaccine series.

Those who implement a mask requirement must ensure all patrons two years and older wear a mask at all times while indoors.    

Hochul previously warned additional steps would be taken based on the state’s COVID metrics: Increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas.

New York’s seven-day average case rate has increased by 42% while hospitalizations have increased by 29% since Thanksgiving, according to the governor.

New York recorded more than 68,000 positive tests for the virus in the seven-day period that ended Dec. 8. That’s the most in any seven-day stretch since the start of February.

Those who violate the measure could face fines up to $1,000 each violation, according to the governor.

Several states already have mask mandates, including New Mexico, Nevada, Hawaii.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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