Saturday, December 11, 2021

With Upstate Infection Rates So High, Gov. Had to Act:
Masks or vaccines mandated as of Monday in NY Indoor Public Spaces; Hospital Shortages Put Us in Danger
By Kate Lisa, Johnson Newspaper Corp.

Masks must be worn in all New York State indoor public spaces unless the business or establishment has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for patrons starting Monday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday.

Acting State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett issued a determination Friday to solidify the statewide requirement for all staff and customers ages 2 and older to wear masks or facial coverings or show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus.

The new pandemic regulation is aimed to combat rising new virus cases and hospitalizations and prevent shuttering businesses during the holiday season and start of the winter as the state’s virus positivity rate increased to 5% and 4.8% over a seven-day average Thursday.

“As governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy,” Hochul said in a statement Friday. “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.

The measure will be reassessed Jan. 15 — the same date the state’s pandemic-related eviction moratorium expires.

Hochul thanked the more than 81.2% of New York adults who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary,” she said. “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.”

New York’s COVID infection rate has increased 43% over a seven-day average since Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 25. The number of patients hospitalized with virus complications have increased by 29% over the last three weeks.

Fully vaccinated New Yorkers have increased by 2% in that same period, but is not enough to prevent widespread community transmission, particularly in communities with low vaccination rates, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

“Community spread requires a community-minded solution as the omicron variant emerges and the overwhelmingly dominant delta variant continues to circulate,” Bassett said in a statement. “We have the tools we need to protect against the virus, and now we must ensure we use them. There are tools each individual can use and there are actions we can take as government. Getting vaccinated protects you and wearing a mask is how we will better protect each other. Both vaccination and mask-wearing are needed to slow this COVID-19 winter surge.”

Check back for more details on this developing story.

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