Health Care

New York to issue mask mandate for businesses without vaccine requirements

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Friday that the state will implement an indoor mask mandate for businesses that do not require vaccinations for customers and staff, citing rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Starting Monday, all indoor businesses will have to either validate people’s vaccination status or mandate all people age 2 and older wear a mask.

The policy is slated to last until Jan. 15 when the state will “re-evaluate based on current conditions,” the governor said in a release, saying the measures are meant to get “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,” she said.

State officials pointed out that New York’s seven-day average case count has climbed 43 percent since Thanksgiving, approaching 10,000 per day, according to The New York Times. Hospitalizations are also rising at a rate of 29 percent, the state said.

Hochul thanked the more than 80 percent of New York residents who are fully vaccinated, adding, “If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary.” 

While the state has seen a 2 percent increase in vaccinations since Thanksgiving weekend, officials concluded the boost is not enough to “completely curb the spread” of COVID-19.

“I have warned for weeks that additional steps could be necessary, and now we are at that point based upon three metrics: Increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity, and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas,” the governor said.

Violations could cost businesses a maximum fine of $1,000 per infraction. 

The additional COVID-19 precautions come as the country heads into the holiday season, when more people partake in indoor shopping and gatherings.

New York officials said the new policy aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that residents in counties with substantial and high COVID-19 transmission wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status. All New York counties are considered to have high transmission.

New York and its Department of Health still “strongly recommend” all people wear masks indoors, regardless of mandates and vaccination status. All unvaccinated individuals, including children ages 2 to 5, are required to wear masks indoors.

The announcement also comes after New York has confirmed cases of the omicron strain — a variant of concern that emerged last month.

Tags Businesses Coronavirus COVID-19 COVID-19 vaccine Kathy Hochul mask mandate Masks New York Pandemic vaccine mandate vaccine requirement

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