CORONAVIRUS

New York’s COVID surge is back — and so is its mask mandate

Dec 10, 2021, 6:51 PM
People wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at a testing facility in Times Square on December 09...
People wait in line to get tested for COVID-19 at a testing facility in Times Square on December 09, 2021 in New York City. As the fast-spreading new Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in at least 19 states, health officials are urging Americans to get vaccinated and receive their booster shots. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Facing a cold-weather surge in COVID-19 infections, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday that masks will be required in all indoor public places unless the businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.

Hochul said the decision to reinstitute a mask mandate was based on a rising number of cases and hospitalizations, which has been especially pronounced in parts of upstate New York.

New York enacted a mask mandate at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020 that ended in June 2021 for vaccinated individuals. The new mask mandate applies to both patrons and staff and will be in effect from Monday to Jan. 15, after which the state will reevaluate.

“We’re entering a time of uncertainty and we could either plateau here or our cases could get out of control,” Hochul warned at a public appearance in New York City.

New York joins several states with similar indoor mask mandates, including Washington, Oregon, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada and Hawaii.

Mask mandates have become a hot-button issue. For weeks, Hochul has said local governments will decide whether to reimpose COVID-19 protocols. She’s expressed caution about whether resistant communities would follow stricter rules.

Hochul’s announcement Friday was cheered by some fellow Democrats and a union representing retail and grocery workers, even as Republicans called it an overreach and an unnecessary burden on businesses.

Violators could face civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000. While Hochul said local health departments will be in charge of enforcing the requirements, Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day said the governor’s staff was unable to provide detailed information about the new requirement.

“I told the governor’s staff that we cannot and will not enforce this requirement as it currently stands,” Day said in a prepared release.

Niagara County Legislature Chair Becky Wydysh, a Republican, said local officials don’t believe a mandate is the best use of resources. The county will take an “educate to cooperate approach” to enforcement, Wydysh said in a statement.

News of the mandate was welcome at the Lake Placid Christmas Company, a shop on Main Street in the tourist-friendly Adirondack village.

“Our employees all wear masks, but we stopped requiring all of our customers to wear masks because it was too hard to enforce,” said manager Scott Delahant. “Quite frankly, I got sick of arguing with people.”

He said many shoppers browse barefaced, despite a sign on the door encouraging mask wearing and a basket of free disposable masks.

Hochul announced the mask mandate at a social service agency in Manhattan, where most people already wear masks. New York City requires vaccinations for indoor restaurant dining, entertainment and gyms, and those vaccine-requiring venues will be unaffected by the new rule.

The state recorded more than 68,000 positive tests for the virus in the seven-day period that ended Wednesday. That’s the most in any seven-day stretch since the start of February, and rates are rising in nearly all counties.

“We are heading upward in a direction that I no longer find sustainable,” Hochul said.

Nearly 3,500 people are hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York — nearly double from 1,794 on Nov. 7.

The surge is especially pronounced in some areas of upstate New York, which has accounted for nearly three-fourths of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in hospitals since August. Several upstate counties have recently enacted mask mandates, including Erie County, which includes Buffalo.

In Sullivan County in the mid-Hudson Valley, public health director Nancy McGraw said people have become complacent about the virus and she supports the mask mandate. She said vaccination rates are disappointingly low in remote areas including Woodbourne, where only 36% of roughly 3,000 residents are fully vaccinated.

“We have very limited resources for enforcement and people need to do the right thing,” McGraw said. “Public responsibility is key here.”

New York has the seventh highest rate of fully vaccinated residents: 70.1% as of federal data updated Friday. But fewer than 60% of residents are fully vaccinated in more than 500 zip codes throughout New York, according to data for about 1,300 zip codes provided by the state health agency.

Thirty-two upstate hospitals in Niagara and elsewhere had to limit performing nonessential elective surgeries starting Thursday because of capacity issues.

One of the state’s worst hit hospitals, Glen Falls Hospital in Warren County, said 50 out of 165 patients had COVID-19 as of Wednesday. That’s the most infected patients the hospital’s ever reported, according to state data.

“We remain very busy across all units in the hospital,” hospital spokesperson F. Raymond Agnew said. He said 70% of COVID-19 admissions are unvaccinated people.

___

Villeneuve and Hill reported from Albany, New York.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus

RSV and flu...
Deidre McPhillips, CNN

Flu season intensifies, holiday gatherings could make it worse

Americans gathered for Thanksgiving last week amid a flu season that's worse than any has been in more than a decade, and experts continue to urge caution as multiple respiratory viruses circulate at high levels nationwide.
3 days ago
Protesters hold up blank papers and chant slogans as they march in protest in Beijing, Sunday, Nov....
Jessie Yeung and CNN's Beijing bureau

Rare protests are spreading across China. Here’s what you need to know

From Shanghai to Beijing, protests have erupted across China in a rare show of dissent against the ruling Communist Party.
3 days ago
Police officers block Shanghai's Urumqi Road on Sunday. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)...
CNN's Beijing bureau and Nectar Gan

Protests erupt across China in unprecedented challenge to Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy

Protests erupted across China throughout the weekend, including at universities and in Shanghai where hundreds chanted "Step down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!"
4 days ago
Salt Lake City Police at the University of Utah Hospital due to a possible bomb threat. (Salt Lake ...
Michael Houck

Police: Unattended bag led to bomb squad response at U of U Hospital

Salt Lake City Police responded to a possible bomb threat at the University of Utah hospital Tuesday afternoon.
16 days ago
Evusheld...
Elizabeth Cohen and Naomi Thomas, CNN

COVID-19 medicine for immunocompromised patients is losing effectiveness

Judy Salins considers herself a smart, empowered patient, but until this week, she had no idea that the medicine she takes to defend herself against Covid-19 isn't protecting her as well as it used to.
20 days ago
Paxlovid, the antiviral pill that reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19, also...
Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

Paxlovid reduces risk of long Covid, Veterans Affairs study finds

Paxlovid, the antiviral pill that reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19, also reduces the risk of long Covid, according to a new study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
25 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
New York’s COVID surge is back — and so is its mask mandate