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Governor: NY mask-or-vaccine mandate extended to Feb. 10

Associated Press photo

New York’s mask mandate will continue through at least Feb. 10, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday, for indoor public spaces that don’t require proof of vaccination upon entry.

The mandate was set to expire next week, but Hochul said the state’s COVID-19 numbers haven’t reached levels to justify removing the requirement.

“If we continue on this rapid trend downward, we’ll be in a good place,” Hochul said.

Going forward, the mandate will be reviewed every two weeks, if it’s extended at all, Hochul said.

The rule requires that masks be worn in public, indoor spaces that don’t require proof of vaccination. If businesses don’t enforce the requirement, they could face a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.

It’s currently the subject of litigation before an appellate court in New York after a state judge on Long Island, this week, struck down the mandate as unconstitutional. The decision said that only the Legislature, not Hochul, had the power to create such a rule.

That decision was put on hold earlier this week by a judge from the Appellate Division, Second Department after the New York Attorney General’s Office sought an appeal of the ruling.

A panel of judges on the appellate court will decide in the coming days if the mandate should still remain in effect while that appeal is pending.

It was prompted by New York’s recent surge of COVID-19, which was fueled by the omicron variant. Since November, the state’s COVID-19 numbers, at times, had reached levels not seen since spring of 2020.

That’s changed in the last two weeks, during which the state’s main COVID-19 indicators have dropped as quickly as they grew.

As of Thursday, the latest data available, the seven-day average COVID-19 positivity rate in New York was 7.9%. That was above 22% at the peak of the current wave of the virus earlier this month.

Hospitalizations have also gone down. As of Thursday, 8,181 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, compared to more than 12,000 earlier this month.