NY Gov. Kathy Hochul reinstates statewide indoor mask mandate amid Omicron spread, but venues requiring proof of vaccination will be exempt

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul made her biggest COVID-19 policy announcement.

She said that the indoor mask mandate will be restored through January 15, 2021.

Hochul said that businesses and venues that already require proof of vaccination will be exempt from the mask requirement.

In New York City, such a mandate is already in place for bars and restaurants as well as other venues such as gyms, and outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced plans to extend it beyond municipal workplaces into the private sector.

"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.

Hochul praised New York City for keeping its numbers low at an event held at the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center in Manhattan on Friday.

She said that the mask mandate is a preventative measure to avoid any school or business closings down the road.

The crux of New York's problem is the fact that there is a different state of the Pandemic in the Big Apple compared to the Upstate.

Over the age of 18 years old, 92.1% of the population has had at least one vaccine dose, while 69.3% of the total population is fully vaccine free. Several Upstate counties have less than half of their residents getting their first dose.

Upstate has seen a surge in its hospitalization rate.
The Finger Lakes region's hospitalization rate went from 2.9% on Nov. 10 to 4.9% on Dec. 7.

Hochul has not used her authority to impose a proof of vaccination mandate like the one in New York City, which has been lagging behind.

Hospitals in the upstate have been dealing with staffing shortages, leading to Hochul suspending surgeries at seven hospitals in Western New York, and creating a policy where others will have to suspend them if they cross a threshold of less than 10% staffed.

In Hochul's news release, acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett outlined the need to take preventative measures against the winter surge.

As the Omicron variant emerges and the overwhelmingly dominant Delta variant continues to circulate, community spread requires a community-minded solution. We need to use the tools we have to protect against the virus. Each person can use tools and take actions as a government.

She said that wearing a mask will help protect each other. "Vaccination and mask-wearing are needed to slow the winter surge."