As opposed to initial hopes that COVID-19 will be over by January 2022, it seems that we are back to a period of high caution as the new Omicron variant is beginning to make its presence known in many parts of the U.S. But unlike with the delta variant when precautionary measures and safety mandates were implemented long after the virus has affected much of the population, governments are prepping to put up a stronger front against Omicron before it takes its expectedly massive hit.
One of the States spearheading initial efforts to curb the spread of Omicron is New York, with Governor Kathy Hochul announcing a state-wide mask mandate, heeding to the WHO’s advice to bring back mask-wearing amid the new variant’s spread.
COVID-19 Cases in New York
The decision to enforce a mask mandate was in consideration of the expected holiday surge, as well as the State’s weekly seven-day COVID-19 case rates. Since Thanksgiving, COVID-19 cases spiked by 43% and hospitalization rates were at an all-time high of 29%.
While 70.5% of New Yorkers are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 500,000 booster shots were administered at the end of November, Governor Kathy Hochul feels that vaccination rates are not fast and solid enough to stop Omicron from taking a foothold — hence the urgency of enforcing a mask mandate.
New York’s Mask Mandate: An Overview
From December 13, 2021, New York has been under a strict mask mandate, requiring citizens to wear their masks in all indoor places. An exception applies to businesses or venues that have a vaccine requirement in place and only allow vaccinated individuals to enter.
The mask mandate will be effective well after the holidays, specifically on January 15, 2022, in hopes of helping stop or mitigate the expected holiday COVID-19 surge.
After January 15, 2021, the New York City administration will conduct an assessment of its mask mandate to determine its effectiveness in stopping Omicron and reducing the number of new infections in its borders.
Businesses or venues that do not comply with the statewide mask mandate will be subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 per violation, as well as accompanying civil and criminal penalties.
Mask-Wearing: The Best Line of Defense Against Omicron and Holiday Surge
An increase in COVID-19 cases, declining hospital capacity, and a high remainder of unvaccinated citizens are what brought about the decision to impose a statewide mask mandate in New York. According to Governor Kathy Hochul, this temporary measure is currently the state’s best line of defense against the new variant, as well as the further spread of COVID-19 not only in its borders but in the rest of the United States.
This same sentiment is shared by other states that have imposed their own mask-wearing requirements, such as Hawaii, New Mexico, and Nevada.