Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. A statewide mask mandate goes into effect Monday and requires all businesses and public spaces that don’t monitor vaccine status to require masks. Credit… Karsten Moran for The New York Times
Starting Monday, when New Yorkers walk into a store for a quick purchase, they’ll have to buy a face mask again. A new statewide mandate requires masks in all indoor public areas that do not require proof of full coronavirus vaccination to enter.
Government Kathy Hochul announced the mandate on Friday, which will be in effect until January 15, when the state will reassess. Businesses that don’t require their customers to be masked can face civil and criminal penalties, including fines up to $1,000 per violation, and local health departments are responsible for enforcement.
New York City, where 71 percent of residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, already needs proof of at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccination to eat indoors at a restaurant or watch a movie. But now masks are also mandatory unless full vaccination is required in those and all other covered public places, including offices, shops and residential lobbies.
Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second injection of the two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the first injection of a dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children ages 5 to 11 statewide only need to show one dose to be admitted in places that require full vaccination, the state said.
Since former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo lifted most virus-related restrictions in June, including the requirement to wear masks in most environments, the new mandate will likely be a big change, especially in some rural and more conservative parts of the state.
The new measure comes at a time when the country is facing a spike in Covid-19 cases and scientists are unsure of the effect of the arrival of the Omicron variant. The seven-day average of new Covid cases in the United States on Saturday was 119,325 per day, a 40 percent increase in just 14 days. In New York State, the average on Saturday was 9,716, a 51 percent jump over 14 days.
New York City has also seen a sharp rise in cases since Thanksgiving, with an average of more than 2,600 new cases a day, according to city data, down from an average of less than 1,500 a day three weeks ago, according to city data. Regions of upstate New York are being hit even harder, with some 30 upstate hospitals ordered by the governor to suspend elective surgeries to relieve pressure.
A handful of county officials, including many Republicans in the state, were skeptical of the mandate, some even promising not to enforce it. Addressing them on Monday, Ms Hochul said: “I encourage district leaders, especially those who ask me for help, to help alleviate the crisis in their health care systems, to look at their own actions and see what they can do to to be a better partner.” She commented, “This is self-generated in a way.”
On Sunday, during a briefing in Hamburg, western New York, about the damage and power outages from storms the night before, Ms. Hochul asked about the mask mandate.
“Just wear a mask,” Ms Hochul said, adding, “I know tomorrow is a big day; it doesn’t have to be such a big deal. It really doesn’t matter. I’m just asking people to do something which is common sense, which we believe will help save lives and ultimately reduce infections.”
dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s top adviser on the pandemic, also strongly urged people to wear masks when inside people whose vaccination status is unknown.
“Making won’t be forever,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, “but it can get us out of the very difficult situation we’re in right now.”
New York City had already planned to tighten food and entertainment rules from Tuesday for children ages 5 to 11 to receive one dose to enter restaurants and theaters, and for adults to receive one dose of a drug from December 27. vaccine to go to two. except for those who initially received the one-time Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But the new state mandate replaces both rules for now.
A sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate for all private employers in New York City goes into effect Dec. 27.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday the city planned to train entrepreneurs and cooperate with the rollout of the new state mask mandate, rather than stressing fines and enforcement. For weeks, he has resisted calls for a city-wide mask mandate despite the rising number of cases, fearing it would weaken the city’s vaccination-focused strategy.
“This city’s strategy has been and will continue to be vaccination first and foremost,” Mr De Blasio said in a news conference Monday. “But we are going to work with the state to implement this mask mandate. What we found is that when we communicate with companies, treat them with respect and a spirit of collaboration, we get a really good result.”
Grace Ashford contributed to the report.
— Juston Jones and Sharon Otterman