Hochul’s New Indoor Mask, Vaccination Mandate for NY Is ‘Wake-up Call’ for Businesses

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Gov. Kathy Hochul, in obvious disappointment in regard to the winter surge of COVID-19 currently being experienced in New York, announced Friday that indoor businesses will have to choose between a vaccine or a mask requirement for customers starting Dec. 13.

Businesses without a vaccine mandate in place would be forced to require their patrons to mask up or risk civil and even criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation, according to the Hochul administration.

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“Many people in New York City are already dealing with this — been dealing with it for a while — you’ve been doing great,” Hochul said. “Your infections are not as high as the rest of the state. But the rest of the state now has a wake-up call.”

The five boroughs, where vaccination mandates for restaurants were already put in place by Mayor Bill de Blasio, are less of a problem than the rest of the state where ordinances are more varied.

Hochul said her administration would reassess the decision on Jan. 15, 2022, based on where the state’s weekly seven-day case rate stands in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as New Yorkers head indoors for the majority of activities, and in the face of more omicron variant infections growing.

“We’re entering a time of uncertainty,” Hochul said. “We could either plateau here, or our cases could escalate beyond control. We are staring upward, my friends, I’ve been watching this closely. We’re heading upward in a direction that I find is no longer sustainable.”

The statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by 43 percent and hospitalizations have increased by 29 percent since Thanksgiving, according to the state. On Thursday, the administration recorded 54 COVID-19 deaths across the state. New York has already seen 20 confirmed cases of the omicron variant, 13 of which are in New York City, with Hochul expecting more to come.

The new mask measures are in line with the Centers for Disease Control‘s recommendations updated on June 30, per the state.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.