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Hochul adds mask requirements amid rise of delta variant


Thu, Sep 16th 2021 09:25 am

Face coverings now required at state-regulated child care facilities for children ages 2 and up, all staff and visitors

√ Directs residential congregate programs operated, licensed, certified or approved by Office of Children and Family Services to require masks for all staff & residents

√ Directs programs and facilities licensed or registered by Office of Mental Health, Office of Addiction Services and Supports, Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to require masks

√ Mask requirements apply regardless of vaccination status

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a series of universal mask requirements designed to protect New Yorkers against the highly contagious delta variant and the recent surge in COVID-19 infections statewide.

The requirement applies to New York State Office of Children and Family Services-licensed and -registered child care centers, home-based group family and family child care programs, after-school child care programs and enrolled legally exempt group programs during operational hours. A press release said, “Implementing the mask regulation in child care programs will provide consistency between child care program children and school children, many of whom often share the same buildings.”

New masking requirements will also apply to congregate programs and facilities licensed, registered, operated, certified or approved by the Office of Mental Health, the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, Office of Children and Family Services and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. This includes but is not limited to certified residential and day programs, inpatient and outpatient mental health facilities, substance abuse programs, juvenile detention programs, juvenile residential facilities, congregate foster care programs, runaway and homeless youth, domestic violence and other shelter programs. These requirements apply to anyone medically able to tolerate wearing a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

"With the delta variant on the rise, requiring masks at state-regulated child care, mental health, and substance abuse facilities is a key part of our broader strategy for slowing the spread of the virus, reopening our economy safely, and protecting vulnerable members of our population," Hochul said. "For children under 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, masks are the best line of defense against COVID-19 infection. This new mask requirement ensures that children in our child care facilities receive the same protection as children in our schools."

The new mask requirement in child care facilities brings New York into compliance with federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued in July that recommends universal indoor masking for anyone age 2 and older who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and is medically able to wear a mask. It also brings child care facilities in alignment with school masking requirements announced on Hochul's first day in office.

The press release said, “Because the delta variant is so highly transmissible, there have been large increases in cases across all age groups. Because children under 12 years of age are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine, there have been large increases in cases among children, which translates to higher numbers of severe cases. Additional protective measures will help to keep New York's children safe at this important time.”

OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, "We have heard from many parents and residents of congregate settings asking that the state require masking because child care and congregate residential programs will not require that protection without a state requirement. We want to keep all children and staff in child care programs, as well as staff and residents of congregate residential programs, safe from the spread of infection, and wearing a mask is the best tool we have. Children want to be like the adults around them and will easily adapt to the mask wearing requirement."

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, "It is clear that masks help control and prevent the spread of infection. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, OMH has issued guidance for our state-operated facilities and clinics as well as community-based mental health care providers recommending and encouraging the use of masks and other protective measures. I am very pleased that Gov. Hochul has taken this step to establish and strengthen mask requirements that will protect health care workers, our patients and clients, and our communities from COVID-19."

OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "Providing high-quality substance use treatment in the safest possible environment has always been at the forefront of OASAS' work, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. These mask requirements will ensure that individuals who are in our care are able to focus on their health and well-being, while protecting themselves and others from COVID-19."

OPWDD Commissioner Theodore Kastner, M.S., M.D., said, "Ensuring the safety and security of the people we support is our greatest priority, and Gov. Hochul has shown her continued commitment towards achieving this goal with her call for universal masking for those who can tolerate masks. As we continue to encourage staff to get the vaccine to keep themselves, their loved ones and the people we support safe, it is also important to continue following protective measures such as masking and other infection control protocols to keep our most vulnerable New Yorkers protected from severe illness or even death from the COVID-19 virus."

OTDA Commissioner Mike Hein said, "We cannot allow our state to slide back to a time when the coronavirus spread through our communities nearly unabated. The science here is clear: Masking is a simple, unobtrusive way to significantly reduce the spread of this virus, including the highly transmissible delta variant. We applaud Gov. Hochul for taking a commonsense approach toward fighting the ongoing pandemic and ensuring those facilities licensed or registered by the state are taking the necessary precautions to keep the people they serve safe."

New Efforts to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations & Prepare For Booster Shots

EMTs to be authorized to administer vaccine, adding more than 2,000 vaccinators back into vaccination program; 50,000 basic EMTs to receive training to help increase vaccination rate

Hochul also announced new efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and prepare for booster shots upon FDA approval. To continue to support vaccinating school-aged New Yorkers, 125 free tickets to the upcoming Governors Ball Music Festival are available to individuals who receive their first vaccine dose at a #VaxtoSchool pop-up location through this new incentive program.

The governor has directed the State Department of Health to authorize basic emergency medical technicians to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. This immediately adds more than 2,000 fully trained vaccinators back into the state's program. An additional 50,000 basic EMTs will be able to receive the required training in order to help administer the COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses.

"More than four in five adult New Yorkers have gotten at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine and, while we are significantly outpacing most other states with our high vaccination rate, the fact remains that those who are still unvaccinated are significantly more likely to experience severe symptoms and end up hospitalized," Hochul said. "The vaccine works, but only if we take it, and that is why we are using creative incentives for people who still need to get their shot and putting in place the necessary offense to beat back the virus once more."

The required training for EMTs can be completed online or in-person. Licensed EMTs will become a state-approved vaccinator by demonstrating skill competency online or in-person.

DOH is continuing to work with local health departments that know their communities best. Local health departments have planned for mass vaccination campaigns and can serve a critical role in bridging the gap in local capacity, especially during peak demand. So far, local health departments activated more than 200 of them for the COVID-19 vaccination program. DOH is engaging local health departments to reach out to medical practices, clinics and other providers in their counties to encourage participation in the booster program.

Recently, the governor announced the launch of the multifaceted statewide #VaxtoSchool campaign to support increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates among school-aged New Yorkers, furthering the administration's commitment to making the health and well-being of students, teachers and families a top priority. As part of this effort, the governor announced new #VaxtoSchool pop-up COVID-19 vaccination sites will be open in areas where ZIP code data shows the vaccination rate for 12 to 17-year-olds is lower than the statewide average. A community-based medical professional will be available at each site to answer any questions parents and guardians of school-aged New Yorkers may have. 

Governors Ball has donated 125 free tickets to its September music festival at Randall's Island as vaccine incentives to support the state's #VaxtoSchool efforts. The tickets are available for individuals who receive a first dose of their COVID-19 vaccine at state-operated #VaxtoSchool pop-up locations.

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