Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Friday that as of Monday, Dec. 13, masks will be required in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. The action comes amid yet another surge in Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and aligns with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission.
The governor’s determination, according to a statement issued on Friday morning, is based on the state's weekly seven-day case rate as well as increasing hospitalizations.
Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by 43 percent and hospitalizations have increased by 29 percent. Suffolk County’s positive test rate on Wednesday was 7.02 percent based on 16,117 tests conducted, higher than last year at this time. The county’s seven-day average rate of positive tests stands at 6.5 percent.
Long Island’s seven-day average rate stood at 6.09 percent on Wednesday, a near-tripling of the 2.08 percent seven-day average on Oct. 28.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, East Hampton has had 2,337 reported cases of Covid-19, according to Suffolk County’s Department of Information Technology, or 106.98 per thousand people.
The new business and venue requirements extend to patrons and staff. This measure is effective as of Monday and until Jan. 15, after which the state will re-evaluate based on current conditions. The new measure brings added layers of mitigation during the holidays when more time is spent indoors shopping, gathering, and visiting holiday-themed destinations.
Businesses and venues that implement a mask requirement must ensure all patrons 2 years and older wear a mask at all times while indoors.
“We are fine with that, and we think it’s a good idea,” Lisa Schock, a manager at Park Place Wines and Liquors in East Hampton, said of the governor’s announcement on Friday. “We’re all about safety, and don’t have any problem with that.”
Businesses and venues that implement a proof of vaccination requirement can accept Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State, or a C.D.C. Vaccination Card. In accordance with the C.D.C.'s definition of fully vaccinated, full-course vaccination is defined as 14 days past an individual's last vaccination dose in their initial vaccine series (14 days past the second shot of a two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or the single shot of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine).
The state also accepts World Health Organization-approved vaccines for these purposes. Parents and guardians can retrieve and store an Excelsior Pass and/or Excelsior Pass Plus for children or minors under legal guardianship.
A violation of any provision of this measure is subject to all civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation. Local health departments are being asked to enforce these requirements.
"As governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy,” the governor said in a statement. “The temporary measures I am taking today will help accomplish this through the holiday season. 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. . . ." According to the governor, more than 80 percent of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated. "If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary."
"I have warned for weeks that additional steps could be necessary,” she added, “and now we are at that point based upon three metrics: increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity, and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas.”
Per the C.D.C., 92.1 percent of New Yorkers age 18 an older have had at least one vaccine dose, and 81.3 percent have completed a vaccine series. But the increasing number of vaccinated residents is not enough to curb the spread of the virus, the governor said, particularly among communities with low vaccination coverage. The State Health Department continues to urge eligible New Yorkers of all ages to get fully vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.
The state's masking requirements continue to be in effect for in schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care settings per C.D.C. guidelines.
Even for those who are vaccinated, the state and the state's Health Department continue to strongly recommend mask-wearing in all public indoor settings as an added layer of protection. Children 4 and under are not yet eligible for any of the Covid-19 vaccines.
New Yorkers can visit vaccines.gov, text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 800-232-0233 to find nearby vaccination centers. National pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreen's offer the vaccines by appointment, as does Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. East Hampton Town has hosted several vaccine clinics over the past month and has more planned later this month and next. Appointment slots for December clinics were filled as of this morning, but there were still appointments by clicking available here for clinics at Town Hall on Jan. 5, Jan. 10, Jan. 19, and Jan. 24.