Gov. Hochul issued drastic COVID rules and said New Yorkers face expensive fines if caught breaking the new rules.

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On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul today announced masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.

"I have warned for weeks that additional steps could be necessary, and now we are at that point based upon three metrics: Increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity, and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas," Governor Hochul added.

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This major action to address the winter surge comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise statewide to be in alignment with the CDC's recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission, officials say.

The new business and venue requirements extend to both patrons and staff. This measure is effective from Dec. 13, 2021, until Jan. 15, 2022, after which the State will re-evaluate based on current conditions.

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This determination is based on the State's weekly seven-day case rate as well as increasing hospitalizations.

The new measure brings added layers of mitigation during the holidays when more time is spent indoors shopping, gathering, and visiting holiday-themed destinations, officials say.

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"As Governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy. The temporary measures I am taking today will help accomplish this through the holiday season," Hochul said.

Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by 43 percent and hospitalizations have increased by 29 percent.

While the percentage of New Yorkers fully vaccinated continues to increase—gaining 2% from Thanksgiving weekend to now—the uptick is not fast enough to completely curb the spread of the virus, particularly among communities with low vaccination coverage, Hochul notes.

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"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. "I want to thank the more than 80 percent of New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated. If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary."

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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.

"Community spread requires a community-minded solution, as the Omicron variant emerges and the overwhelmingly dominant Delta variant continues to circulate. 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," Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett stated.

Below is more information on the new COVID rules:

Business/Venue Proof of Full-Course Vaccination Requirement

  • Businesses and venues who implement a proof of vaccination requirement can accept Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State, or a CDC Vaccination Card. In accordance with CDC'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; 14 days past the one-shot Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine). The State also accepts WHO-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.

Business/Venue Mask-Wearing Requirement

  • Businesses and venues that implement a mask requirement must ensure all patrons two years and older wear a mask at all times while indoors.

Continued Masking Requirements

  • Unvaccinated individuals continue to be responsible for wearing masks, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Further, the State's masking requirements continue to be in effect for pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care settings per CDC guidelines.
  • New York State and the State's Department of Health continue to strongly recommend mask-wearing in all public indoor settings as an added layer of protection, even when not required.
  • Children 2 - 5 who remain ineligible for vaccination must wear a proper-fitting mask.

 

On Thursday, Hochul confirmed 5.0 percent of tests in the past 24 hours came back positive statewide and 54 more Empire State residents died from the virus.

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Over 92 percent of New Yorkers 18 and older have at least one vaccine dose. 79.7 of all New Yorkers have at least one dose.

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Below is each region's updated 7-day average percentage of positive test results:

Answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

Keep reading to discover answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions.

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