Over fears of a cold weather surge in COVID-19 infections, on Dec.10 New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that masks will be mandatory in all indoor public places in the state unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine mandate. The mandate will stay in place until Jan. 15 at which time it will be reevaluated.
Hochul cited a rising number of cases and hospitalizations as justification for reinstating the mask mandate. In April 2020, early in the pandemic, New York state enacted a mask mandate that ended in June 2021 for vaccinated individuals only.
During a recent public appearance in New York City, Hochul said, “We’re entering a time of uncertainty and we could either plateau here or our cases could get out of control,” the Associated Press (AP) reported.
New York state joins a slew of other states that have implemented similar countermeasures in an attempt to stave off infections and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 including Washington, Oregon, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada and Hawaii.
Violators of the mask mandate could face both civil and criminal penalties, including a fine of up to $1,000.00. Local health departments will be responsible for enforcing the mandate.
While some cheered the announcement others called the mask mandate an overreach stating the measure places additional burdens on businesses already struggling with the fall-out of the pandemic and that the mandate will not be enforced.
Republican Ed Day, Rockland County Executive, told AP via a prepared release, “I told the governor’s staff that we cannot and will not enforce this requirement as it currently stands.”
Niagara County Legislature Chair Becky Wydysh, Republican, said in a statement that the county will take an “educate to cooperate approach” when enforcing the mandate indicating a relaxed approach to enforcement.
Last week the state recorded more than 68,000 positive tests for the virus over a seven day period prompting Hochul to conclude that “we are heading upward in a direction that I no longer find sustainable.”
In New York, close to 3,500 people are currently hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 infections, a number that is nearly double the cases identified on Nov. 7 when 1,794 people were in hospital with the disease.
Over the course of the pandemic, 2,835,295 cases have been identified in New York state resulting in 58,017 deaths.