NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The mandate to wear masks inside any location that doesn’t already have a vaccination requirement takes effect across New York state on Monday.
This comes as nationwide the average number of COVID-19 cases is up 37% from last week, with hospitalizations rising in at least 42 states, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Sunday.READ MORE: Remote Option Returning To NYC Schools As Omicron Continues To Fuel Nationwide Spike In COVID Cases
Rozner was outside the City Point Mall in Brooklyn, where a mix of people walked in with and without masks. Some were not aware that starting Monday a mask will be required to go inside. If businesses don’t enforce it, they could be fined $1,000.
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The sign “Face Masks Must Be Worn” greeted customers at the entrance to Big Brothers Hardware in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“If not, you’ll wait outside. We’ll give you a mask,” owner David Ramnauth said.
Ramnauth said he supports Gov. Kathy Hochul‘s mask mandate, but admitted there is concern upset customers could lash out at his employees.
“We try to handle it in a very diplomatic way and talk to them in a very courteous way, say, ‘Sir, do you want a mask? Do you need something? We’re more than happy to work with you,'” Ramnauth said.
A little further down Fulton Street, Royal Sneakers won’t unlock its doors if someone is not masked.READ MORE: COVID Hospitalizations Drop For 4th Straight Day Across New York State
“It’s safety for everyone, for us and our customers,” co-owner Harpreed Singh said.
Starting Monday, Hochul says all businesses and venues statewide must require masks indoors for everyone, or require proof of full vaccination. The mandate will be in effect at least until Jan. 15, when the governor will reassess COVID conditions.
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Rockland County Executive Ed Day said Hochul’s staff asked him on Friday to redirect county health department staff from vaccinations to enforcement of the mask mandate. He said 84% of people 18 and over are vaccinated, and added taking the health department away from the effort would be “reckless.”
“The mask mandate is unenforceable. Unless you want to have police locking people about like they’re doing in Australia, it’s not enforceable,” Day said. “Nobody wants to spend police resources doing that. So they said our health departments are gonna do this. And I said, ‘That is not gonna happen.’ I have a health department right now, who is doing a great job in immunizing people.”
In New York City, proof of full vaccination is already required to dine indoors, and to go to the gym and entertainment venues. Some say abruptly imposing it on business owners focused on recouping their losses during the holiday season isn’t fair.
At the holiday market inside the City Point Mall, a beauty vendor said all her customers have been masked, anyway.
“And they’re still buying lipsticks even though we have to wear the mask,” said Kasha Mann, owner of Ahsak Skincare.MORE NEWS: New York 'Turning The Corner' On COVID Surge As 7-Day Average Case Count Declines, Gov. Hochul Says
The state-wide COVID positivity rate is at just under 5%. The governor says around 10% of hospitals in the state don’t have the capacity to handle the surge in cases.