Governor’s face mask tenure runs from Monday to January 15 at least

CAPITAL REGION – New Yorkers will be required to wear face masks in indoor public places from Monday through at least January 15, Governor Kathy Hochul said on Friday.

BCompanies or sites that have a vaccine requirement in place are exempt from the new rule, Hochul said.

The requirement, put in place as COVID-19 rates statewide rise, is aimed at dealing with the winter wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide, has declared Hochul.

It also aligns with the federal Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations for high and high transmission communities.

Violators could be fined up to $ 1,000, Hochul said.

A previous face mask mandate was lifted in June by the government of the day. Andrew Cuomo.

Todd Garofano, Executive Director of Discover Schenectady, said it was difficult news for a hotel industry that had already been hit hard by the pandemic.

“Here we are back with mask mandates for companies that don’t have a vaccination policy,” Garofano said. “We can all hope that this will be temporary when they look at this on January 15, that we get past that next hurdle. But that’s definitely another challenge for this industry as we try to bounce back.

Local businesses were already asking how they could comply with state requirements and what the app would look like, Garofano said.

“All of these questions keep coming back,” he said. “We’ve been through this before in each of the reopening phases and things like that. There is always an element of vagueness in these mandates, and I think sometimes it is on purpose.

According to Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford, Electricity Town Patrol Officers will continue to take a hands-off approach to law enforcement.

“Like last time, we will be giving advice on the warrant, but not participating in the execution,” Clifford said on Friday. “We encourage respect, but we rely on state agencies to uphold the mandate. “

Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association in Albany, said the association values ​​the governor’s application of the mandate in all businesses and public places.

“The hospitality industry has not been singled out in any way,” Fleischut said, recalling that last year during the holidays, when COVID rates also rose, the state imposed a curfew on industry and major metropolitan areas were closed for indoor dining.

At that time, customers were also required to purchase food whenever they purchased alcohol on site.

“By comparison,” Fleischut said, “a mask mandate that applies to all businesses and all public places, doesn’t sound as bad as what we have been faced with the previous times.

At the college level, Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs has updated its immunization policies to require faculty, staff and students to receive COVID-19 booster shots at the start of the spring semester or as soon as they become eligible. .

“In keeping with the College’s commitment to providing equal opportunity to all people regardless of protected status, the College will respond to the medical needs and sincere religious beliefs of individuals, provided that the accommodation requested is reasonable and does not create undue hardship to the college or pose a direct threat to the health and safety of any person or person requesting a waiver of this requirement, ”the school said in a statement Friday.

The policy recommendation was presented and approved at Friday’s meeting of the institution’s policy and planning committee, which included representatives from staff, faculty and students, the college said in a statement.

Next week, the college’s human resources department will provide employees with additional details regarding its updated vaccination policy, including instructions for submitting proof of vaccination recalls and links to medical exemption request forms. or religious. Health services will provide similar information and instruction to students.

“As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the health and safety of our entire community continues to be our top priority. CDC Says COVID-19 Boosters are Safe and Effective, and We Have Confidence That They Will Be Beneficial in Enabling Us to Manage and Ensure the In-Person Learning Experiences and Community Engagement that we all look forward to. continue during the spring semester, ”the college said.

Reverend Nicolle Harris, pastor of Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church in Schenectady, said the tenure would have no impact on services as the church met virtually during the cold months. He does not plan to resume in-person services until March.

During the warmer months of the pandemic, the church had held in-person services in its parking lot, where it could more easily implement social distancing protocols, she said.

“The government, the churches, everyone is trying to do things to keep people safe,” Harris said, adding that someone affiliated with the church tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday. “This is the reality we still face, and I respect the government’s decision. “

In Saratoga Springs, the city’s recreation department has ended its policy of relaxed face masks for certain athletes inside city facilities.

According to a memorandum from John Hirliman, executive director of recreation, the city previously exempted athletes competing indoors who were “unable to tolerate a face covering for physical activity.”

As a precaution, the recreational infrastructures of the Spa town will no longer allow the exception for athletes.

Hochul said the state Department of Health has produced leading studies, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and the New England Journal of Medicine, which demonstrate the effectiveness of vaccines. COVID-19, especially in the prevention of serious illnesses.

The Department of Health continued to urge eligible New Yorkers of all ages to get fully immunized and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Hochul said the face mask’s mandate is also based on the state’s seven-day weekly case rate as well as the increase in hospitalizations.

The measure is effective from Monday to January 15, after which the state will reassess the matter, Hochul said. The new measure brings additional layers of mitigation during the holidays when more time is spent indoors shopping, gathering and visiting vacation-themed destinations, she said.

“As governor, my two main priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy,” Hochul said in a statement. “The temporary measures I’m taking today will help me achieve this over the holiday season. We shouldn’t have gotten to the point where we’re facing a winter wave, especially with the vaccine at our disposal, and I share the frustration of many New Yorkers that we haven’t yet passed this pandemic. I want to thank the over 80% of New Yorkers who did whatever it took to get a full vaccine. If others follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary.

“I warned for weeks that additional measures might be needed, and now we are at this point based on three measures: increased cases, reduced hospital capacity and insufficient vaccination rates in some areas,” Hochul added.

Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased 43% and hospitalizations have increased 29%. While the percentage of fully vaccinated New Yorkers continues to rise – gaining 2% from Thanksgiving weekend to now – the rise is not fast enough to completely curb the spread of the virus, especially in low-income communities. vaccination coverage.

Acting Health Commissioner Dr Mary T. Bassett said: “Community spread requires a community-based solution, as the Omicron variant emerges and the largely dominant Delta variant continues to circulate. We have the tools we need to protect ourselves from the virus – and now we need to make sure we use them. There are tools that every individual can use, and there are actions that we can take as a government. Getting the vaccine protects you and wearing a mask is the best way we will protect each other. Vaccination and wearing a mask are necessary to slow this winter wave of COVID-19. ”

A violation of any provision of the face mask measurement is punishable by civil and criminal penalties, including a fine of up to $ 1,000 for each violation, the Hochul office said. Local health departments are urged to enforce the requirements.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

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