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(Updated: 11 a.m.) New York has a new mask mandate. Effective Dec. 13, masks will be required in all indoor public spaces unless a COVID-19 vaccine is required to enter the space, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced this morning.

The mandate comes as coronavirus infection rates and hospitalizations are on the rise in several regions across the state, including Long Island. Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by 43% and hospitalizations have increased by 29%, Hochul said in the release. The mandate will be in place until Jan. 15, 2022, when the measure will be reassessed, she said. 

It also comes as health professionals warn of a potential “winter surge” of coronavirus cases as more events and interactions are moved indoors, the infectious delta variant continues to dominate cases in the state, and the spread of the potentially more infectious omicron variant enters the list of concerns that may prolong the pandemic. 

“The temporary measures I am taking today will help accomplish this through the holiday season. We shouldn’t have reached the point where we are confronted with a winter surge, especially with the vaccine at our disposal, and I share many New Yorkers’ frustration that we are not past this pandemic yet,” Hochul said in the release. “I want to thank the more than 80% of New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated. If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary.”  

Businesses and venues that implement a proof of vaccination requirement can accept Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State, or a CDC Vaccination Card. 

Businesses are required to enforce the mask requirement, which is in effect for everybody age two and older.

Businesses and venues that violate the measure are subject to civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 per violations.

COVID-19 vaccinations are available for free for ages 5 and up at mask vaccination sites, health centers and pharmacies statewide. 

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]