On December 10, 2021 New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a mandate requiring that masks be worn in all indoor public places, unless the business or venue requires proof of vaccination for entry. At that time the determination was based on the State’s weekly seven-day case rate as well as increasing hospitalizations. The new business and venue requirements extend to both patrons and staff. This measure was effective from Dec. 13, 2021 until Jan. 15, 2022, after which the State would re-evaluate the mandate based on current conditions. As part of the New York State’s “Winter Surge Plan 2.0”, the mandate, which was initially set to expire on January 15, was extended for an additional two weeks, through February 1, 2022.
The New York Department of Health, which issued FAQs regarding the mandate, indicated that businesses and venues have the option of requiring masks or proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, and that the mandate applies to employees working in offices. Additionally, if the employer does not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry into the office space, everyone must wear masks at all times regardless of vaccination status, except when (1) eating or drinking, or (2) alone in an enclosed room.
New York State has issued posters which businesses and venues may choose, but are not required, to display: a Mask Mandate Poster available in English and Spanish, a Proof of Vaccination Poster available in English and Spanish, and a Face Masks for COVID-19 Poster available in English.
A violation of any provision of this measure is subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation. Local health departments are being asked to enforce these requirements however some NYS counties have indicated that they will not enforce the mandate.
Employers in NYS should also remember that the NY Hero Act’s designation of Covid-19 as an infectious disease is still in effect, initially designated on September 6, 2021, and the designation has been extended multiples times and is currently in effect until February 15, 2022. This continued designation means that employers must continue to follow their Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, which includes daily screenings and masking (where there are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated employees in the workplace) for workplaces, among other requirements, so employers should prepare to continue masking requirements through at least February 15.