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Indoor mask rules are back in New York state as cases surge

December 13, 2021 GMT
A sign reminds customers that masks are required in their store in New York, Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. 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. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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A sign reminds customers that masks are required in their store in New York, Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. 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. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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A sign reminds customers that masks are required in their store in New York, Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. 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. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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, and enforcement is in the hands of local counties.

But Republicans in a few counties, including Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Rockland County Executive Ed Day, have said they won’t redirect local health department resources to enforce the mandate.

Still, Hochul said Monday she hopes and expects most local health departments to enforce the mandate. She urged help from reluctant county executives who are also asking the state for help with addressing rising hospitalizations.

“It’s a very simple temporary measure which is driven by our need to get this under control,” Hochul said.

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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.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would implement the mandate in a “cooperative way” with an emphasis on educating and working with business owners.

“We don’t want to penalize people unless there is overt resistance and unwillingness to cooperate, and that’s very, very rare,” de Blasio said at news briefing.

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.”

Although 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.