With COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations on the rise statewide and the winter surge underway, Governor Hochul is taking “major action” to keep New York State running. Starting December 13, 2021, masks are required in all indoor public spaces unless those spaces require proof of vaccination.
The seven-day, new case average hit an all-time statewide high in January 2021 with 13,793. As of December 9, 2021, the 7-day average was closing in on that average with 9,673. This is a 45% increase for new cases from the fourteen days prior. Hospitalizations jumped by 33% in that same two-week period. Deaths rose by 58%. For comparative purposes, the seven-day average on April 10, 2020 was 9,877 with 10,794 infections on that date.
According to the Mayo Clinic, New York State ranks sixth nationwide with a 69.5% fully vaccinated rate. However, the state falls to 13th with a rate of 79.9% of at least one dose of an approved vaccine.
Closer to home in New York City, the trend is no different. Confirmed cases, probable cases, hospitalizations, and confirmed deaths are all increasing. The 7-day percent positive rate from December 1 to December 7 is up citywide with the greatest increases “of new people positive” in Staten Island (Tottenville 8.28%, Great Kills 7.89%, and Charleston/Prince’s Bay/Woodrow at 7.42%).
With all of these numbers in mind, Governor Hochul issued this mask mandate to “protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy.” Hochul issued a statement reminding New Yorkers that she warned for weeks “that additional steps could be necessary, and now we are at that point based upon three metrics: Increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity, and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas.”
Hochul added that vaccination percentages have increased by 2% since Thanksgiving weekend but noted that “the uptick is not fast enough to completely curb the spread of the virus, particularly among communities with low vaccination coverage.” The statewide mask mandate will be in effect until January 15, 2022, and will be reassessed at that time.
Back on the city front, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate for all private sector employees on December 6, 2021. “New York City will not give a single inch in the fight against COVID-19. Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and these are bold, first-in-the-nation measures to encourage New Yorkers to keep themselves and their communities safe.”
Despite the recent surges and the new Omicron variant, the Mayor’s stance of not giving an inch seems to extend to the city’s students and employees as well. Both groups remain required to report to school and work in person with only limited options for remote schooling or telework.
The Center for Disease Control is recommending that those who have been fully vaccinated get a booster shot “to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection.” Vaccines and booster shots are available for free statewide.