Gov. Kathy Hochul on indoor mask mandate: 'This is about getting us through a pandemic'
ALBANY - Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday sought to beat back criticism from some county leaders over her decision to install a statewide indoor mask mandate, saying the measure is the best way to quell a surge in COVID-19 cases.
More than a dozen counties led by Republicans have vowed to not enforce the mask mandate that took effect Monday, and they knocked the Democratic governor for trying to impose the regulation on their communities.
Hochul responded Tuesday in a COVID briefing from her Manhattan offices to implore New Yorkers to get vaccinated or at least wear a mask in public spaces.
"I’m not going to engage in a political discussion about this. This is just too important," Hochul told reporters.
"This is about getting us through a pandemic so we can finally say to everybody: You no longer need to wear a mask. Period. That (COVID) vaccines will be so routine for everyone that you won’t think twice about it just like every other vaccination."
The mandate requires masks in all indoor public places in New York unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement for entry. Hochul emphasized that the mandate is in place until Jan. 15, after which the state will re-evaluate based on current conditions.
Hochul, who is seeking a full four-year term in November, said the immediate goal is to help the state get through holiday season without cases spiking further, contending that counties with 73% of the state's population support the mask mandate.
Hochul even brought in some business owners from across the state to talk during her briefing about the importance of mask wearing, including Jason Sidle, director of Operations at Coltivare in Ithaca, and Danny Deutsch, owner of Abilene Bar and Lounge in Rochester.
And she said New York isn't going as far as New York City, which requires vaccines to enter restaurants and venues.
"Here we’re giving people around the state even more flexibility, understanding the pressures that exist outside the five boroughs, and saying: vaccination or mask mandate," Hochul continued.
State officials have notified counties that the mandate will be self-enforcing, and Hochul on Tuesday urged them to comply.
Still, some county leaders said they would not enforce the mandate.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, for example, said the county cannot divert its limited resources in fighting the pandemic to the mask order.
"As we educate & inform residents to take the necessary mitigation steps to protect themselves & those they love, we will not escalate tension or conflict or further burden our local small biz by allocating resources we do not have to this impractical & unenforceable measure," he wrote Sunday on Twitter.
Joseph Spector is the Government and Politics Editor for the USA TODAY Network's Atlantic Group, overseeing coverage in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany
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