Starting Monday, masks will be required for all indoor public spaces unless the venue has a vaccine requirement, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday.
The governor said that the move was meant to address a surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. Hochul had said Thursday that the increase was “an alarm going off,” and required action.
The requirements apply to both patrons and staff.
“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.
“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,” Hochul added.
Businesses and venues requirement can accept Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State, or a CDC vaccination card. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that fully vaccinated means 14 days past an individual’s last vaccination dose in their initial vaccine series (14 days past the second shot of a two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine; 14 days past the one-shot Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine).
Venues can also accept WHO-approved vaccines for these purposes.
Parents and guardians can retrieve and store an Excelsior Pass and/or Excelsior Pass Plus for children or minors under legal guardianship.
A violation could lead to a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation. Local health departments are being asked to enforce the requirements.
Updated: US Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is expected to be the Republican and Conservative nominee, wrote on Twitter, ” NY Gov. Kathy Hochul just imposed a STATEWIDE mask mandate on all NYers. Wrong answer! Hochul’s consistently inconsistent. We need leaders who value freedom, who aren’t tyrants, & who view their constituents with respect rather than as their ‘apostles’.”
UPDATED: Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, responded to Hochul’s order by saying, “We appreciate the magnitude of the public health dilemma New York is facing, and the difficult choices our leaders must make to address it.
“Checking the vaccination status of everyone stopping in for their morning coffee would make convenience stores “inconvenience” stores. On the other hand, past experience has shown that when our stores are thrust into the role of mask police, bad things can and do happen, including sporadic violence directed at employees just trying to do their job.
“For now, we ask the cooperation of our valued customers as we strive to implement this policy in a manner that keeps our stores accessible and our team members safe. And we hope our state leaders will reconsider the wisdom of potentially placing our essential workers in harm’s way.”
Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by 43% and hospitalizations have increased by 29%. While the percentage of New Yorkers fully vaccinated continues to increase—gaining 2% from Thanksgiving weekend to now—the uptick is not fast enough to completely curb the spread of the virus, particularly among communities with low vaccination coverage.
New York State and the State’s Department of Health continue to strongly recommend mask-wearing in all public indoor settings as an added layer of protection, even when not required. Children 2 – 5 who remain ineligible for vaccination must wear a proper-fitting mask.
COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses are free and available statewide. New Yorkers can visit vaccines.gov, text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations. To schedule an appointment at a state-run mass vaccination site, New Yorkers can visit the Am-I-Eligible site. New Yorkers can also contact their health care provider, county health departments, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), rural health centers, or pharmacies.
New Yorkers can retrieve their Excelsior Pass or Excelsior Pass Plus here. Businesses and venues can download the Excelsior Pass Scanner app—free for any business nationwide and available in more than 10 languages—here.