Gov. Hochul Orders Indoor Mask Mandate At All Public Places That Do Not Require Vaccination
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With cases rising and a growing threat of Delta and Omicron, the mask mandate is expanding in New York.
As CBS2's Andrea Grymes reports, local counties will be in charge of enforcing this, and the Rockland County executive already says he won't.
Still, others are applauding the governor's new mandate, concerned about an uptick in cases.
"I'm kind of frightened. I kind of agree with her," one person said.
"Personally, I feel like it should be left up to the individual," said another.
Watch: Gov. Kathy Hochul Announces New Mask Mandate
From the suburbs to the city, reaction is pouring in on the new statewide mask mandate.
"If it's for the safety of the people, yeah, I think it is a good idea," said Danny Perrito of Tuckahoe.
"I think we should have a mandate because this vaccine is terrible," said another.
"Me wearing a mask in a store, I mean, yeah, it's a little small inconvenience, but we're talking about people's lives here," Harlem resident Katrina Eady said.
"It is up to everyone's discretion, but I personally will not b e wearing a mask inside because I don't believe in it," Hell's Kitchen resident Samantha Schnell said.
"The right choice is to wear the mask indoors. We can protect each other," another person said.
Starting Monday, Dec. 13, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced all businesses and venues statewide must require masks indoors for everyone, or require proof of full vaccination.
The mandate will be in effect until at least Jan. 19, when Hochul will reassess COVID conditions.
"We had predicted that if we didn't get more people vaccinated and ultimately boosted, and now with layering on a new variant, we have 20 cases in New York but it spreads very quickly. We're entering a time of uncertainty. We can either plateau here or our cases could escalate beyond control," Hochul said.
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As of Thursday, statewide the governor reported 79.7% of all eligible New Yorker have at least one dose of the vaccine. The statewide seven day average positivity rate is ticking up at 4.8%, and about 3,500 people were hospitalized Thursday out of a population of about 19 million.
Grymes asked Hochul about those hospitalizations specifically.
"Isn't that still a low number, compared to where we've been?" Grymes asked.
"I monitor the hospital capacity. We have 32 hospitals right now that have, are less than 10%. That means they don't have the capacity to be able to handle a surge in cases," Hochul said. "It's not devastatingly bad right now, but by the time it gets there, it'll be too late."
Those 32 hospitals are in upstate counties.
Downstate, on the Upper East Side, the owner of children's gift shop Promises Fulfilled says a mask mandate is necessary.
"We think it's great. I mean, I know COVID rates are going up everywhere, and it's really scary to us," owner Caryn Klausner said.
Some businesses, however, say they fear having to enforce a mandate.
"Putting business owners as the enforcement arm of state public health policy is just an incredibly burdensome ask," said Greg Biryla with the National Federation of Independent Business.
"There have been instances of violence against employees just because they are doing their job, trying to enforce a policy, and we are very nervous about the risk of that happening again," said Jim Calvin, with New York Association of Convenience Stores.
Rockland County Republican Assemblyman Mike Lawler calls the new rules government overreach.
"I don't think at this time that we are in a position where this type of mandate is warranted," Lawler said.
"I don't see us having a need for a statewide mask mandate," Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin told CBS2's Dick Brennan.
Zeldin, a candidate for governor himself, says the mandate sends the wrong message.
"A statewide mask mandate is not going to increase the amount of people who are going to go out and get vaccinated because one of the reasons why people were getting vaccinated was because they want to go back to living their lives normally," he said.
Watch Andrea Grymes' report --
New York City already has a strict vaccination-only policy for restaurants and entertainment venues that supersedes the new state mandate.
Patrons and staff must meet the CDC's threshold to be considered fully vaccinated. That means at least two weeks have passed since receiving a second Moderna or Pfizer shot or one Johnson & Johnson.
"Many people in New York City are already dealing with this, they've been doing it for a while," Hochul said. "But the rest of the state now has a wake-up call. I've been warning, I've been saying, if we can't get more people vaccinated or boosted, I have to protect people, but also the economy."
The new mask mandate aligns with CDC recommendations for "communities with substantial and high transmission," the governor's office said.
On Thursday, the governor said New York has 20 confirmed cases of Omicron, but the surge of hospitalizations is mostly due to Delta.
The latest numbers showed:
- More than 12,000 positive COVID-19 cases in New York
- More than 4,500 in New Jersey
- More than 2,600 in Connecticut
National numbers reflect a similar upward trend. New cases increased nearly 42% and reported deaths are up 37% from last week.
CBS2's Andrea Grymes contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story was first published on Dec. 10.
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