New York’s new mask mandate goes into effect Monday, with Gov. Kathy Hochul requiring individuals to wear face coverings inside all indoor public places in an effort to combat what officials expect to be a winter surge of COVID-19.
The new measure, which Hochul introduced last week, brings "added layers of mitigation" during the holiday season, state health officials said, arguing that during this time of year, "more time is spent indoors shopping, gathering, and visiting holiday-themed destinations."
The state defined indoor public places as "any indoor space that is not a private residence." Officials said the mandate will cover indoor entertainment venues, concert halls, indoor sports stadiums, recreational spaces, restaurants, office buildings, shopping centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, houses of worship and common areas in residential buildings.
"Any person, past their second birthday and medically able to tolerate a face covering, must wear an appropriate mask while in any indoor place, regardless of vaccination status," the state said, noting that businesses and venues instead "can choose to implement a vaccination requirement, requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of entry inside the business or venue."
The new mandate is set to expire on Jan. 15, 2022—when Hochul’s administration will "re-evaluate next steps."
The mandate comes as state officials reported a 43% increase in the statewide seven-day average case rate since Thanksgiving—with COVID-related hospitalizations increasing by 29%.
The mandate also comes after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued what he called a "preemptive strike," mandating that all private sector employees in the Big Apple be vaccinated against COVID-19 amid the new threat posed by the omicron variant.
That mandate takes effect on Dec. 27, and will apply to roughly 184,000 businesses.
De Blasio’s office also broadened "Key to NYC," its program requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining, fitness and entertainment – expanding the measure to include children 5 to 11 years old.
Beginning Dec. 14, the program will require children ages 5 to 11 to show proof of one vaccination dose for those venues, and starting Dec. 27, New Yorkers 12 and older will be required to show proof of two vaccine doses, instead of one, except for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
This comes as the Biden administration has faced a string of legal losses over its COVID-19 vaccine mandates, with a number of federal judges across the nation halting the implementation of the rules, claiming overreach by the executive branch — as the Justice Department plans to "vigorously defend" the mandates in court.
The Biden administration last month unveiled the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 vaccine rule, which required employers with more than 100 employees to ensure that all workers are either fully vaccinated or subject to weekly testing and mask wearing.
The mandate also hit businesses that fail to comply with fines reaching as much as $14,000 per violation with the potential for multiple citations.
After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld its stay on the mandate, OSHA suspended enforcement of the rule
New York recorded more than 68,000 positive tests for the virus in the seven-day period that ended Dec. 8, the most in any seven-day stretch since the start of February.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.