COVID cases have spiked by more than 4,000 cases per day since late November.
New York State is now requiring masks at all indoor public places—including restaurants—unless businesses implement a vaccine requirement.
The regulation intends to curb the winter surge of coronavirus cases in the state, which have spiked up by more than 4,000 cases per day since late November.
The measure went into effect December 13 and will be reevaluated January 15.
State officials made the decision based on both the weekly seven-day case rate as well as increasing hospitalizations. Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate increased by 43 percent and hospitalizations rose by 29 percent, even with the number of vaccinated New Yorkers lifting by 2 percent in that timeframe.
"As Governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy,” Gov. Kathy Hochul 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.”
Those who disobey the regulation may be subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation.
If restaurants choose to implement a vaccine requirement, they must ensure anyone 12 or older is fully vaccinated before entering indoors. Under this rule, fully vaccinated is defined as 14 days after the final dosage date. Children age 5 to 11 will only have to show proof of having one dose. If operators elect the face mask requirement, everyone age 2 and up who is “medically able to tolerate a face covering” must wear one except when eating and drinking.
Restaurants may accept the Excelisor Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued out of the state, full-course vaccination through NYC Covid Safe App, or a CDC vaccination card.
New York City has mandated vaccination to enter restaurants since mid-September, and those regulations have since been expanded. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that starting December 14, NYC food and drinking places and other entertainment venues must require children age 5-11 to show proof of one vaccination dose to enter. Additionally, beginning December 27, everyone 12 and older must show proof of two vaccine doses, except for those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Since mandates were lifted six months ago, the state has continued to require all unvaccinated individuals wear masks. The state has also required those in pre-K to grade 12 school settings, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare settings to wear face coverings.
"Community spread requires a community-minded solution, as the Omicron variant emerges and the overwhelmingly dominant Delta variant continues to circulate,” Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “We have the tools we need to protect against the virus - and now we must ensure we use them. There are tools each individual can use, and there are actions we can take as government. 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."