This morning, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that all indoor public places must now require masks, unless the business has, or implements, a vaccine requirement. New York has now become the seventh state in the nation to reimplement a statewide mask mandate, joining Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. The mandate will come into effect on Monday, December 13 until January 15, 2022, after which the state will re-evaluate based on the COVID numbers at that time.
The Governor’s stated that the mandate was reimplemented based on the increasing seven-day average of positive cases and the increasing number in hospitalizations. Since Thanksgiving, the statewide weekly average of positive cases has increased by almost half, at 43%. This past week accounted for the highest average since February. Hospitalizations have increased by almost one-third, at 29%. 20 cases of the Omicron variant have now been identified statewide, with the Delta variant still accounting for the majority of cases.
The Governor’s office further stated that this measure will aid in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 during the winter, which will consist of more time spent indoors and more gatherings for the holiday season. Local health departments have been tasked with enforcement of the mandate and violations may result in civil and criminal penalties, including fines with a maximum of $1,000 per violation.
Under the mandate, businesses must implement a mask requirement that applies to all employees and patrons, including visitors, two years of age and older. The mask must be worn at all times while inside the establishment. If a business instead decides to implement a vaccination requirement for staff and third parties, they are able to accept Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State, or a CDC Vaccination Card for proof of vaccination. They are also able to accept proof of vaccines that have been approved by the World Health Organization for foreign patrons.
Employers should communicate the mask requirement to all employees for Monday. If your organization decides to implement a vaccination policy (assuming you have not done so already), please reach out to us for assistance in creating this policy.