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Hochul provides information on free masks
On Friday, at the tail end of her speech at a press event regarding a downstate snowstorm, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced her mask mandate would remain in place through Feb. 10. The indoor face covering requirement was slated to end Feb. 1.
Hochul said, in part, “Yesterday we lost 171 fellow New Yorkers because of this pandemic. And I want to make sure that we're remembering them, but also, that is (a) reminder, take this seriously until we are clearly out of this storm. And that is why as we talk about this, you know, we didn't know at the time when we put in our mask or vaccine requirement to protect people as this omicron surge with spiking, it was spiraling out of control in the month of December, we did not, we could not have foreseen what January and February looked like.
“We still don't know much beyond where we are right now, but again, the trend is much more positive. And that is why I want to talk about the fact that we'll have a temporary extension of our business mask or vaccine policy. And that has been a critical tool in driving those numbers down. They could be even more out of control, but we're going to continue doing this not by months, not by three months, we're going to do it every two weeks now. So, we can be ready to suspend, give businesses the notice they've been waiting for. But again, I want to thank all the businesses and the people who follow these policies. You are the reason our state is going to come out of this far sooner than other states. The numbers are still going up in other states. And we've been smart here.
“I thank the people; I thank the counties for their partnership. So, we'll be extending that just through Feb. 10. Again, probably a couple days before that, we'll be evaluating. But if we continue on this rapid trend downward, we'll be in a good place. If it levels off or something else happens, I need that flexibility and I'm going to continue to reserve that. But also, people are waiting to hear when some of these restrictions can be lifted. And so, we're going to continue with our flexibility.
“As we know, the school masking policy remains in effect, despite the fact that there was a little blip, but we are back on track legally. And I want to thank our attorney general, Letitia James, and her incredible team for understanding the urgency of us appealing a decision that came forth based on factors that we don't agree with. We happen to think that the commissioner of health and Department of Health have a responsibility to protect public health. That is why they do what they do. And we're going to continue to defend that in court. So, the appellate decision, the second department, sided with us and let common sense prevail. So now we are back into ensuring that these are in place again for now. And the only reason we have this is because this is how we can keep our schools open.
“When our schools are open and kids are safe there, moms and dads can get back to work. We can start that path to being normal and there'll come a time when we can talk about lifting this as well. We're just not there yet. We're going to continue keeping people safe and fighting to protect all New Yorkers. So just want to give those notices of what the lay of the land here is in the state of New York.
“And also, let's continue to wear the masks. The ones that really make a difference. The N95s, and President Biden is sending about 400 million. That's an extraordinary number, making those available. So, they're free. You can get three of them at a time, and they're going to be available at every place, the retail pharmacies, and stores where they're offering vaccinations right now, here in the state.
“If you're looking for a place to get your free heavy-duty, very efficient mask, go to vaccines.gov and it'll show you where to get those. And I want to thank President Biden for making those available to New Yorkers. So, check on that. But again, if I saw higher vaccination rates as well, I would sleep better at night, but our children and many people who are still vulnerable, all they have to do is show up, roll up their sleeves and get that shot, get the booster, and they're ready to roll and they can handle whatever comes next as we've seen.
“People who are vaccinated and boosted did not end up in the hospitals with omicron; they may have had symptoms, stayed home for the five days that they tested positive, but our hospitalizations are still, the vast majority, are people who are unvaccinated. And our kids are going to be sick if we don't get them vaccinated, so let's make sure that that happens as well. Let's give all the kids the protection they need to be able to stay in school and stay safe.”
The legality of Hochul’s mask mandate has been challenged in court.
On Monday, she announced a full stay of her mask regulation.
"I commend the Appellate Division, Second Department, for granting a full stay to keep our masking regulations in place for the duration of our appeal,” Hochul said. “My primary responsibility as governor is to keep New Yorkers safe. Mask regulations keep our schools and businesses safe and open, protect vulnerable New Yorkers, and are critical tools as we work to get through this winter surge. Thanks to our efforts, including mask regulations, cases are declining and we are seeing major progress in the fight against COVID-19. I thank the attorney general and her team for their defense of these common-sense measures, and I am confident we will continue to prevail. We are committed to doing everything in our power to keep New Yorkers safe."
On Jan. 24, a Nassau County Supreme Court ruled the mandate couldn’t be enforced, as it wasn’t first approved by the New York State Legislature.
On Dec. 10, Hochul announced masks would be required to be worn in all indoor public places statewide, unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. That began Dec. 13, and was set to continue until Feb. 1.