Featured Story

Governor: Indoor mask mandate to return Monday

Don’t get rid of your mask.

New York State is reinstating a mandatory mask mandate in all indoor public places starting Monday, Dec. 13.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced the new policy Friday in response to rising cases of Covid-19 throughout the state.

“The temporary measures I am taking today will help accomplish this through the holiday season,” Ms. Hochul said Friday. “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.”

In a daily case report posted Friday morning by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, 1,132 new cases were reported on Wednesday, bringing the county’s positivity rate to 7%.

On Long Island, the positivity rate is 6.4%.

According to the new guidelines, businesses or venues may opt not to require masks if they implement a vaccination requirement. Proof of vaccination can be accepted via the Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State or a CDC Vaccination Card.

Businesses that implement mask requirements must ensure everyone over the age of two wears a mask at all times while indoors.

Violating the guidelines, which will be enforced by local health departments, could lead to civicl and criminal penalties including a maximum fine of $1,000 per violation.

The measures will be in effect through Jan. 15, 2022. At that point, state officials are expected to re-evaluate the rules based on current Covid conditions.

State health officials said the new restrictions are needed to combat the winter surge during the holidays, when people spend more time indoors shopping, gathering and visiting holiday-themed destinations.

Ms. Hochul said she’s been warning for weeks that additional steps could be necessary based on increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity and insufficient vaccination rates in key areas.

Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case has increased by 43% and hospitalizations have also increased by 29%.

In response to a rise in hospitalizations, the governor earlier this week announced an order to suspend elective surgeries at hospitals with less than 10% of their bed capacity available.

Officials said the vaccination rate—which has risen by 2% since Thanksgiving—is not ticking up fast enough to combat the spread of the virus.

The governor and Dr. Mary Bassett, the state’s new health commissioner, continue to urge anyone eligible (5+) to receive the vaccine.

“Community spread requires a community-minded solution,” Dr. Bassett said. “We have the tools we need to protect against the virus and now we must ensure we use them. 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.”

For those who have been fully vaccinated, free booster doses are also available throughout the state. To find an appointment, visit vaccines.gov, visit the state’s vaccination portal or contact your local pharmacy or health care provider.