UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Governor Kathy Hochul announced that masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places in New York unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.
The governor made the decision based on the state's weekly seven-day case rate as well as hospitalizations.
The new business and venue requirements extend to both patrons and staff.
It goes into effect from December 13 until January 15, after which the state will re-evaluate the requirement based on current conditions.
The governor said the new measure brings added layers of mitigation during the holidays when more time is spent indoors shopping, gathering, and visiting holiday-themed destinations.
"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," Governor Hochul said. "I want to thank the more than 80 percent of New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated. If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary."
"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," Governor Hochul added.
A violation of any provision of the measure is subject to all civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation. Local health departments are being asked to enforce these requirements.
So far Madison, Niagara, Rensselaer and Rockland counties are not enforcing the mandate.
Niagara, with an 11% positivity rate, "will be taking an educate to cooperate approach" instead of enforcement. Niagra decided "a mandate was not the best approach nor the enforcement of such a mandate the best use of our resources."
Onondaga, where five residents died in the past 24 hours, called the effort a "work in progress."
Nassau County Executive-elect Bruce Blakeman called the mandate a "shotgun approach."
"Over 97% of Nassau County adults have been vaccinated with at least their first dose and our outstanding health care facilities are not even close to capacity. While we continue to monitor this health care concern it is clear that Nassau County is not in crisis and State government should not paint us with the same broad brush as the rest of the State. I'm hopeful that the State will allow local determination rather than a shotgun approach."
Hochul said there would not be 100% compliance, and there are likely more holdouts to come.
However, other state and county officials announced their support for the mandate as opposed to more restrictions.
"We recognize Governor Kathy Hochul for her leadership in announcing a statewide mask mandate," Westchester County Executive George Latimer said. "This pandemic has reached crisis proportions in parts of the state, and we can't be sure that it won't rise to equal status in the rest of the state. The Governor does not make these decisions lightly, and I respect and appreciate her steady hand in these difficult times. Westchester County will do our professional best to enforce this mask provision. At this point, this is the best move to protect the health of New Yorkers, and to protect the health of the New York State economy. It is far less restrictive than a shutdown of our businesses; it is an action that shows leadership and restraint."
New York City and surrounding areas have the highest vaccination rates in the state, but if you take a drive up north and west the rates start to plummet.
That's where 32 hospitals have to stop doing elective surgeries because of a shortage of beds and staff.
In New York City, the seven-day average for COVID admissions is eight cases per 100,000 people.
It's 14 per 100,000 on Long Island.
But in Western New York, for example, it's 38 cases per 100,000.
Meanwhile, the CDC has signed off on booster shots for 16 and 17-year-olds. New data shows that a third dose, or second dose if you got Johnson & Johnson may be crucial in fighting off the new omicron variant.
Right now, New York State has 20 omicron cases, Connecticut has 11 and New Jersey is reporting cases in the single digits, but it's the delta variant driving this latest surge.
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