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New Yorkers Must Wear Masks Indoors, Unless Proof of Vaccination Required, Hochul Says
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Gov. Kathy Hochul
Credit: NY Governor's Office

Mask Mandate Reinstated in New York

Masks will now be required when entering indoor, public spaces in New York, unless proof of vaccination is already a prerequisite for entry, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday.

As the average COVID-19 positivity rate in New York approaches 5%, which hasn’t been seen since February, Hochul said the new mandate would help curb the spread of the virus.

“The rest of the state now has a wake-up call. I've been warning, I've been saying that if we can't get more people vaccinated, I have to protect the people, and the economy,” Hochul said.

Businesses that do not require proof of vaccination will have to make sure patrons are wearing a mask while inside, according to the new rule. Those who don’t wear a mask where they’re required could be fined up to $1,000.

The Business Council of New York State, a group that represents commercial interests, said in a statement that it supported Hochul’s mandate, and urged residents to comply.

“As we have stated in the past regarding similar mandates, we support necessary measures to help stop the spread of COVID,” the statement said. “Our hope is people respect the state’s directive and employees of businesses by not putting them in the difficult position of having to enforce the mandate through confrontation.”

Another business advocacy group, Unshackle Upstate, also said in a statement that it supported the mandate as a means to lower COVID-19 rates and avoid another shutdown.

“While this isn’t an ideal situation, we applaud Governor Hochul for balancing the well-being of New Yorkers and the health of the state’s economy,” the group said. “The last thing that struggling businesses need or want is another shutdown.”

New York ended its initial mask mandate in June, when 70% of adults in New York had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The state’s average positivity rate at the time was less than half of one percent.

About a month later, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended that unvaccinated individuals continue to wear masks indoors, but the state didn’t formally adopt that policy.

Hochul’s mandate essentially reflects the CDC’s July recommendation, but doubles down, requiring vaccinated individuals to wear a mask indoors as well, unless they’re already required to show proof of vaccination.

The requirement was not without its critics Friday. It was met with opposition, largely from Republicans, who said it was an overreach by the government that couldn’t be effectively enforced.

Sen. Mike Martucci, the highest ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, said that requiring businesses to enforce the mandate would be an undue burden.

“The last thing businesses need is another mandate, especially one that forces them to strongarm their customers into wearing a mask or invade their privacy by checking their vaccination status,” Martucci said.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, who’s the party’s favorite for governor, said the mandate would be met with COVID fatigue from New Yorkers.

“New Yorkers are done with the moving goal posts day after day,” Zeldin said. “They are tired of government telling them more than ever that they are no longer in charge of their individual lives and freedoms.”

The new requirement will take effect Monday.

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