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10 Dec, 2021 18:49

New York governor imposes indoor mask mandate with $1k fine

New York governor imposes indoor mask mandate with $1k fine

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has ordered all businesses to implement an indoor mask mandate punishable by a $1,000 fine unless they require a Covid-19 vaccine pass, citing a winter surge in cases and blaming the unvaccinated.

Businesses and venues that do not require a vaccine pass for entry will have to ensure everyone over the age of two wears a mask “at all times while indoors,” Hochul announced on Friday. The mandate will go into effect on December 13 and stay until at least January 15, 2022, when it will be re-evaluated.

“We are heading upward in a direction that I no longer find sustainable,” Hochul said. Her office pointed to a 29% increase in hospitalizations since Thanksgiving. She blamed the surge on unvaccinated New Yorkers.

“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,” Hochul said. “I want to thank the more than 80 percent of New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated. If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary.”

The state continues to “strongly recommend” wearing masks indoors anyway, even when not required, she added. Violators will face civil and criminal penalties, including a fine of up to $1,000 per infraction. The mandate will be enforced by local health departments.

“Community spread requires a community-minded solution,” said acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “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.”

The state has recorded over 2.82 million cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, and 57,500 deaths have been attributed to the virus – almost 35,000 of them in New York City.