New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced that, as of December 13, all public places in the state must require masks to allow people to enter. This mandate comes at the recommendation of the New York State Department of Health, which has noted a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations throughout the state. The mask mandate affects everyone over the age of two, although businesses may require proof of vaccination in lieu of a mask.
The Current State of COVID-19
Although vaccines are now widely available and an estimated 70% of the state is now fully vaccinated, the rate of COVID-19 infections is still on the rise. This is due, in no small part, to the emergence of the highly infectious Omicron variant of the disease, which is an increasingly common sight in hospitals across the country. However, it is also due to people relaxing social distancing and masking standards after getting vaccinated, which has proved to be particularly perilous for the unvaccinated.
What the Mandate Requires
The new mask mandate, put forward by Governor Hochul, requires all public places (including all businesses and public venues) to require masking indoors at all times for anyone who is at least two years old. Anyone who is twelve or older may, if they are fully vaccinated, instead provide proof of vaccination to avoid the mask mandate. They can do this either with a COVID vaccination card or through the Excelsior app, which is available to New York residents and those who were fully vaccinated in New York State.
How This Affects Employees
The mask mandate affects everyone, including all employees and visitors entering public businesses and venues, unless the business requires proof of vaccination for entry. The only exceptions are when people remove their masks to eat or drink, or when it is otherwise required for the job (such as temporarily removing a mask to cut someone’s hair). Employers will still be responsible for providing masks to their employees, but employees must make sure to adhere to all Department of Health guidelines.
What Employees Should Do About the Mask Mandate
The mask mandate is expected to last until at least January 15, and may last significantly longer. They should comply with the mask mandate, and perform any protective measures required to avoid spreading COVID-19. Any employers who refuse to enforce the mask mandate, or who punish employees for reporting violations of COVID-19 regulations, may be subject to legal penalties. And if you have been punished for reporting violations of the mask mandate, you may wish to speak to a labor lawyer who can help you obtain compensation for any harm you have suffered.
If you have gotten into a legal dispute with your employer, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 40 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000 or visit his contact page.