Some counties refuse to enforce new mask mandate in New York as it begins

Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Mixed feelings over new mask mandate in NY
Josh Einiger says there are mixed feelings in the wake of New York's new mask mandate which went into effect on Monday.

GREAT NECK, Nassau County (WABC) -- The newest New York state mandate took effect Monday, with masks required in all indoor public places unless the businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.

Under the mandate, businesses can either require proof of vaccination for entry or ensure all patrons two years and older wear a mask. Violators could face civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000.

Some municipalities, however, have vowed not to enforce it.

Governor Kathy Hochul argues returning to masks is about protecting New Yorkers from COVID and its variants, especially heading into the holiday season.

Health experts believe the current surge in COVID is being fueled partly by colder weather, which is driving people indoors, as well as the delta variant and the omicron variant, which are both spreading.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would implement the mandate in a "cooperative way" with an emphasis on educating and working with business owners.

"We don't want to penalize people unless there is overt resistance and unwillingness to cooperate, and that's very, very rare," de Blasio said at news briefing.

Hochul admitted enforcement of the new mask and vaccine mandates are up to the counties and cautioned it is a relatively small number of them that are not complying.

"We have left this to the counties to enforce," she said. "We hope that counties will enforce it. We expect they will. We hope they will. It's in the best interest of public health."

Some Republican county executives in the state say they aren't going to enforce it, including in Dutchess and Rockland counties, as well as incoming Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

"Come January 1st, my administration will move Nassau forward with a common sense approach that acknowledges the facts, science and progress made by our residents while also protecting businesses and jobs from any further damage created by government mandates," Blakeman said. "Nassau County is not in crisis, and should not be painted with the same broad brush as the rest of the state. 97% of adults in Nassau County have received at least their first dose of the vaccine, and Nassau hospitals have adequate capacity to handle existing demand."

County executives in Orange and Putnam counties have also announced they will not enforce the new mandate.

New Rochelle sits in Westchester County, where the County Executive George Latimer tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. On Monday, he said he would enforce the state law.

Sona Rincon is reporting on the newest New York state mandate is in effect, with masks required in all indoor public places unless a vaccine requirement in in place.

Hochul urged compliance.

"I encourage the county leaders, especially those who are asking me for help to help alleviate the crisis they have in their health care systems, to look at their own actions and to see what else they can be doing by being a better partner to help reduces those cases by enforcing this," Hochul said.

Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is running for governor, blasted Hochul for what he called a lack of "a comprehensive holiday plan" and wondered aloud how a half dozen counties are allowed to be in open defiance of her mask or vaccination mandate.

"How is it that seven counties are saying they are not going to enforce the law?" he said. "I mean, that's like the breakdown of society when the governor says, 'This is the executive order' and then you have the local municipalities say, 'I'm are not going to do it.'"

Hochul chalked it up to a "difference of opinion."

"I do have faith in New Yorkers," she said. "I believe the vast majority want to do what's right. They want to put this pandemic behind us."

The rule will last at least until January 15, when it will be reevaluated.

The Brooklyn Diocese said it was announced at all Masses this weekend that under the state's mandate, masks must be worn during services.

Business owners, workers, and customers have mixed opinions.

"It's just putting us at physical risk," TP Toys and Accessories owner Kamesha Salmon said. "I've seen different situations where people ask for masks or vaccine card and it became physical. I don't want to put us in that situation."

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At the Farmhouse Tap + Tavern in Altamont outside of Albany, operators told customers they were opting for a mask policy.

"This goes for everyone at the bar or a table. Once you're seated, you're more than welcome to take your mask off," the restaurant posted on Facebook. "We feel this is a lot easier, and less invasive than asking guests to share their vaccination status with us."

Although past polls have shown many New Yorkers support mask mandates, some Republican elected officials have said educating the public would be a better use of resources than enforcing a mask mandate.

New York enacted a mask mandate at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020 that ended in June 2021 for vaccinated individuals.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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