Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to let New York’s indoor mask requirement expire on Thursday. Hochul announced in December that masks would be required to be worn in all indoor public places across New York state—unless businesses/venues implement a vaccine requirement—starting Dec. 13, 2021. Originally, that requirement was set to expire on Jan 15, 2022. However, Hochul has extended the requirement several times, and the most recent extension is until Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. While Hochul is expected to end the state’s mask requirements, counties and municipalities such as New York City still may choose to require masks, and businesses in the state still can require masks or proof of vaccination.
Last week, a state Supreme Court judge ruled that the New York State Department of Health did not have the authority to issue the masking requirement. The judge concluded that the DOH engaged in making law, which can be done only by the state Legislature. As such, the mandate violated the New York State Constitution.
However, a stay for the mandate was granted last Tuesday by an Appellate Court justice. The stay puts a hold on the lower court ruling until a decision can be rendered on the case. The expected end of the masking requirement for businesses in New York comes on the heels of decisions in New Jersey and Connecticut to drop masking requirements for schools. New York’s masking requirement for schools is expected to continue until at least Monday, Feb. 21, 2022.
FAQ: What this means for your business
What are the requirements?
Any person two years of age or older must wear an appropriate mask while in any indoor place, regardless of vaccination status. However, businesses and venues can choose to implement a vaccination requirement—requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of entry inside the business or venue.
Does this apply to insurance agencies?
The mandate applies to all indoor public places. An indoor public place is defined as any indoor space that is not a private residence. This means businesses and venues that are either publicly owned, or owned by private business entities. This includes indoor entertainment venues, concert halls, indoor sports stadiums, recreational spaces, restaurants, office buildings, shopping centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, houses of worship and common areas in residential buildings.
Does it apply to office spaces?
Yes. The requirement applies to all non-private residences, including office spaces.
Can I require unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask and allow vaccinated individuals not to wear masks?
No. Business owners can choose between requiring masks or showing proof of vaccination. Whichever option is selected, it must apply to all occupants within the business’s/venue’s capacity, including staff, patrons, visitors and guests. A business/venue cannot do a combination requirement.
Does this mandate apply to employees?
Yes. It applies to all individuals who are present at a business including staff, patrons and visitors.
If my office requires masks, when is staff allowed to remove them?
If the office does not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, everyone must always wear masks—regardless of vaccination status—except when eating, drinking, or alone in an enclosed room.
How long is this mandate in place?
This measure is effective until Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.
What sort of proof of vaccination is required?
Businesses and venues that implement a proof of vaccination requirement must ensure that anyone 12 years of age or older is fully vaccinated before entering indoors. Businesses/venues can accept the Excelsior Pass, the Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York state, full-course vaccination through the NYC COVID Safe app, a Vaccination Card from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention or other official immunization records. Businesses can download the Excelsior Pass Scanner app to help verify vaccine status.
Who will enforce the mandate, and is there a penalty if a business does not follow the mandate?
Enforcement will be done by local health departments, and the maximum civil penalty is a $1,000 fine.
Where can I go for more information?
For more information about the mandate, visit New York state’s coronavirus’s frequently asked questions website.
If you want to get involved with PIANY’s legislative and advocacy work, there are many ways to engage with the association:
- participate in PIANY’s District Office Visit Program;
- become a member of Agents Advocacy Coalition; and
- watch your PIA Northeast publications and PIA Northeast’s social-media channels for important New York updates, and share them with your followers.
Bradford J. Lachut, Esq.
Bradford J. Lachut, Esq., joined PIA as government affairs counsel for the Government & Industry Affairs Department in 2012 and then, after a four-month leave, he returned to the association in 2018 as director of government & industry affairs responsible for all legal, government relations and insurance industry liaison programs for the five state associations. Prior to PIA, Brad worked as an attorney for Steven J. Baum PC, in Amherst, and as an associate attorney for the law office of James Morris in Buffalo. He also spent time serving as senior manager of government affairs as the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, a chamber of commerce serving the Buffalo, N.Y., region, his hometown. He received his juris doctorate from Buffalo Law School and his Bachelor of Science degree in Government and Politics from Utica College, Utica, N.Y. Brad is an active Mason and Shriner.