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Governor Hochul Announces New Mask Mandate

Governor Hochul has announced a new mask mandate, which took effect on Dec. 13th. In light of rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission rates, masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. LeadingAge NY wanted to highlight for you what this means for members.

What Is the New Mandate?

Below is a summary of the mandate for the general public. The Health Commissioner’s determination also addresses adult care facilities (ACFs) and health care settings, which is discussed below.

  • All people aged two and up who are able to medically tolerate a face covering/mask, regardless of vaccination status, must wear an appropriate face covering/mask while in any indoor public place.
  • However, this requirement does not apply to any indoor public area that requires proof of vaccination as a condition of entry.
  • For purposes of this requirement, “indoor public place” means any indoor space that is not a private residence.
  • The requirement is in effect until Jan. 15, 2022.
  • Enforcement of the requirement will be done by the local health departments, and the maximum civil penalty is a $1,000 fine. Pursuant to regulation, individuals or business/venue entities that violate the determination are subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation.

The Commissioner’s determination outlining the requirement can be accessed here. Taken together with the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the requirement, here is a summary of the implications for members:

  • This requirement applies to senior housing. While the requirement states that it does not apply to a private residence, the FAQs note that it applies to common areas of residential buildings. We read this to mean that the requirement applies to common areas of housing for seniors. See excerpt from FAQs below:

How is ‘indoor public place’ defined, and what type of businesses and venues are included under this requirement?

Indoor public place is defined as any indoor space that is not a private residence. This means businesses and venues New Yorkers typically frequent that are either publicly owned or owned by private business entities. This includes indoor entertainment venues, concert halls, indoor sports stadiums, recreational spaces, restaurants, office buildings, shopping centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, houses of worship and common areas in residential buildings.

 

  • The requirement applies to ACFs. The Commissioner’s letter details that all ACF personnel, regardless of vaccination status, must wear an appropriate face mask if providing direct medical care and at a minimum, a cloth face covering by other staff in such settings, in accordance with any applicable CDC exceptions, until this determination is modified or rescinded. In addition, all visitors who are over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering/mask shall be required to wear a face covering/mask in such setting. It is notable that the letter does not address residents; LeadingAge NY has asked the Department of Health (DOH) for clarification on this.
  • The requirement applies to your office staff as well. See below excerpt from FAQs:

Does this policy apply to office spaces?

Yes, the requirement applies to all non-private residences, including office spaces. If the office does not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, everyone must wear masks at all times regardless of vaccination status except when eating, drinking, or alone in an enclosed room.

 

  • Requirements for health care settings remain the same. The Department indicates in the Commissioner’s letter that the requirements for health care settings did not change and remain consistent with the previous Aug. 27, 2021 guidance. All personnel, regardless of vaccination status, in a health care setting (i.e., facilities or entities regulated under Articles 28, 36, and 40 of the Public Health Law) shall wear an appropriate face mask in accordance with applicable CDC exceptions, until this determination is modified or rescinded. This applies to hospitals, nursing homes, home care, and hospice. Additionally, all visitors over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering/mask shall be required to wear a face covering/mask in health care facilities, regardless of vaccination status, subject to applicable CDC exceptions, and until this determination is modified or rescinded.

We will keep members informed of any clarifications or new developments on this issue. The requirement will be re-evaluated in mid-January.

Contact: Diane Darbyshire, ddarbyshire@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8828