Kathy Hochul Forces New York Businesses to Choose Between Vaccines or Mask Mandates

New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Friday that businesses and venues in the state that don't require a COVID-19 vaccine mandate will be ordered to impose a mask mandate for patrons.

"I, today, am announcing that we are enacting a state-wide indoor mask mandate unless a business has a vaccination mandate," Hochul said during a press conference on Friday. "Many people in New York City are already dealing with this.… You've been doing great, and that is why your hospital capacity is good. That's why your vaccination numbers are high. Your infections are not as high as the rest of the state." 

She continued, "But the rest of the state now has a wake-up call. I've been warning. I've been saying, we can't get more people vaccinated or boosted. I have to protect people, but also the economy."

According to a statement from Hochul's office, the new requirement will go into effect on December 13 and will be reevaluated on January 15.

In the statement released by her office, Hochul said that requirement comes as the state faces an increase in new COVID-19 cases, "reduced hospital capacity, and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas."

According to the statement, New York state's seven-day average COVID-19 case rate has increased by 43 percent since Thanksgiving. New COVID-19 hospitalizations have also increased by 29 percent since the recent holiday.

The new vaccine and masking requirement also comes as the COVID-19 Omicron variant has been detected in the state.

"There are five cases identified in the state of New York. We're not having shutdowns. We're not changing our protocols. We are continuing where we are but making sure that we work in concert together and encourage people to get tested, get tested often," Hochul previously said.

According to Hochul's office, if a business or private venue fails to comply with the new requirements, they could face a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation.

"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," Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the state's acting health commissioner said in the statement. "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."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, also recently encouraged mask wearing amid the detection of the Omicron variant in several states.

Newsweek reached out to Hochul's office for further comment but did not immediately receive a response.

New York Vaccine Requirement
New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Friday that businesses in the state will be required to either impose a mask mandate or COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Above, a sign asks for proof of vaccination in Manhattan at the entrance to a museum on November 29, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty