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Incoming Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman Says He Will Not Enforce State Mask Mandate

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Gov. Kathy Hochul passionately defended her new mask mandate on Tuesday, saying she is trying keep New Yorkers alive during a dramatic surge in holiday COVID-19 cases, while at the same time protecting the fragile health of the state economy.

And she has a warning for elected officials critical of the mandate -- voters will hold you accountable, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

Hochul has received a lot of push-back from county executives, some in office, some newly elected, most Republicans, who have said they will not enforce her business mandate that requires masks unless entrance is limited to only the vaccinated.

She said it's temporary, a necessary step in beating back the pandemic.

"I'm calling on elected leaders and businesses to say I've given us a timeframe. Get us through this holiday surge time, our time of most vulnerability. We know this. This is common sense. Do this so the people you love will still be there to celebrate the holidays with you next year," Hochul said.

Watch: Gov. Hochul Gives Latest Update On Mask And Vax Mandates 

The governor marshaled cold, hard facts about a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases to explain why she felt the time had come to order new mandates to protect people celebrating the holidays -- Christmas, Kwanza and New Year's.

The number of cases per 100,000 people has skyrocketed since Thanksgiving, from 43% last week to 58% on Tuesday, and so have hospitalizations.

"Hospitalizations are up 70% since Thanksgiving, When I announced this on Friday, they had gone up 29%," Hochul said.

She said it was a "minor inconvenience" for businesses that don't have a vaccine mandate to require masks, pointing out that she didn't want to do anything to stress the already fragile economy. New York City, for example, is already down 120,000 jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industry and it's just as devastating in the downtown areas of cities and towns around the state.


But some county executives, like Marc Molinaro in Dutchess and MaryEllen Odell in Putnam, both Republicans, have said they won't enforce the mandate or levy fines on businesses that don't comply.

Incoming Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, also a Republican, said that when he takes office he will order the county health department to stand down.

"We are not in crisis here in Nassau County. Come Jan. 1, it is not my intention to enforce the mask mandate," Blakeman said Tuesday. "What the governor did was paint the whole state with a broad brush."

When asked what she would like to say to Blakeman and other county executives who are resisting and thinking that they're doing the right thing, Hochul said, "We're not doing this to win any popularity contests. This is just too important. This is about getting us through the pandemic so we can finally say to everybody you no longer have to wear a mask, period. It's not about scoring political points or getting headlines to call out the governor."

She had a warning for Blakemen and the others.

"I would not be overconfident in any county about their current state of affairs, with respect to this situation. Every other elected or incoming elected official can make their own determination and you know they'll have accountability the next time around as well," Hochul said.

The governor called her mask mandate a pre-emptive and unobtrusive approach that is a far better choice than having to shut down schools and houses of worship like her predecessor did.

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