Mask rules are back in New York as cold-weather cases surge

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NEW YORK (AP) — A mask mandate for shops and other indoor spaces in New York state took effect Monday as officials confront a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday that masks would be required in all indoor public places unless the businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. The rule will last at least until Jan. 15.

Under the mandate, businesses can either require proof of vaccination for entry or ensure all patrons two years and older wear a mask. Violators could face civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000.

At the Farmhouse Tap + Tavern in Altamont outside of Albany, operators told customers they were opting for a mask policy.

“This goes for everyone at the bar or a table. Once you’re seated, you’re more than welcome to take your mask off,” the restaurant posted on Facebook. “We feel this is a lot easier, and less invasive than asking guests to share their vaccination status with us.”

Though past polls have shown many New Yorkers support mask mandates, some Republican elected officials have said educating the public would be a better use of resources than enforcing a mask mandate.

New York enacted a mask mandate at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020 that ended in June 2021 for vaccinated individuals.