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Governor Hochul Announces Major Action to Address Winter Surge and Prevent Business Disruption as COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations Rise Statewide

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. This a major action to address the winter surge comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise statewide to be in alignment with the CDC’s recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission. The State Health Commissioner issued a determination solidifying the requirement.       

This determination is based on the State’s weekly seven-day case rate as well as increasing hospitalizations. The new business and venue requirements extend to both patrons and staff. This measure is effective Dec. 13, 2021 until Jan. 15, 2022, after which the State will re-evaluate based on current conditions. 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 adult 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. 

Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by 43% and hospitalizations have increased by 29%. While the percentage of New Yorkers fully vaccinated continues to increase—gaining 2% from Thanksgiving weekend to now—the uptick is not fast enough to completely curb the spread of the virus, particularly among communities with low vaccination coverage. 

The State Department of Health has produced nation-leading studies, published in the CDC’s MMWR and the New England Journal of Medicine, which demonstrate the COVID-19 vaccines’ effectiveness – particularly in preventing severe disease. The Department continues to urge eligible New Yorkers of all ages to get fully vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. 

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, “Community spread requires a community-minded solution, as the Omicron variant emerges and the overwhelmingly dominant Delta variant continues to circulate. 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.”    

A violation of any provision of this measure is subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation. Local health departments are being asked to enforce these requirements.    

Business/Venue Proof of Vaccination Requirement    

Businesses and venues that implement a proof of vaccination requirement must ensure that anyone 12 years of age or older is fully vaccinated before entering indoors. Businesses/venues can accept Excelsior PassExcelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State, full-course vaccination through NYC COVID Safe app, a CDC Vaccination Card, or other official immunization record.

In accordance with CDC’s definition, fully vaccinated is defined as 14 days past an individual’s last vaccination dose in their initial vaccine series (14 days past the second shot of a two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine; 14 days past the one-shot Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine). The State also accepts WHO-approved vaccines for these purposes. Parents and guardians can retrieve and store an Excelsior Pass and/or Excelsior Pass Plus for children or minors under legal guardianship.    

Vaccines for children ages 5 – 11 have only been available since November 2021. Therefore, in order to enter a business or venue that implements a proof of vaccination requirement, children ages 5 – 11 only have to show proof of having had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. 

Vaccines have been available for 16–17-year-olds since April 2021 and for 12—15-year-olds since May 2021. At the time of the determination, 63% of the 12 – 17 age group has been fully vaccinated in New York State.

Business/Venue Mask-Wearing Requirement    

Businesses and venues that implement a mask requirement must ensure all patrons past their second birthday and medically able to tolerate a face covering wear a mask at all times while indoors outside of physical eating or drinking.  

Continued Masking Requirements    

Unvaccinated individuals continue to be responsible for wearing masks, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Further, the State’s masking requirements continue to be in effect for pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care settings per CDC guidelines.    

New York State and the State’s Department of Health continue to strongly recommend mask-wearing in all public indoor settings as an added layer of protection, even when not required. Children 2 – 5 who remain ineligible for vaccination must wear a proper-fitting mask. 

COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses are free and widely available statewide. New Yorkers can visit vaccines.gov, text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations. To schedule an appointment at a state-run mass vaccination site, New Yorkers can visit the Am-I-Eligible site. New Yorkers can also contact their health care provider, county health departments, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), rural health centers, or pharmacies. 

New Yorkers can retrieve their Excelsior Pass or Excelsior Pass Plus here. Businesses and venues can download the Excelsior Pass Scanner app—free for any business nationwide and available in more than ten languages—here.      

https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-announces-major-action-address-winter-surge-and-prevent-business-disruption