Hochul, a Democrat, introduced the mandate, which requires businesses and venues to require people to wear masks or present proof of COVID-19 vaccination, in mid-December amid the spread of the Omicron CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus variant.
“I thank all the counties and also the businesses themselves who have been following this,” Hochul said Friday, adding that the mandate will be revisited on Feb. 1. “I have seen compliance. I have traveled from diners and traveled upstate and traveled around the city of New York. The compliance is very good for me visually.”
The mandate has fines of up to $1,000 for each violation, according to the governor’s office.
But, in an apparent reversal of the state policy, Hochul’s office said on Dec. 20 the state will not send inspectors to enforce compliance with her mandate. Meanwhile, a week prior to that, Hochul—who took office after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned amid several scandals—also said counties can opt-out.
“Enforcement will be done by local health departments,” Hochul spokesperson Hazel Crampton-Hays told news outlets at the time. “Governor Hochul made $65 million available today for counties’ enforcement needs, including personnel costs associated with spot checks and other enforcement. We are all in this together as we fight this winter surge.”
During a Dec. 14 news conference in Manhattan, Hochul previously explained that individual counties “have always had to enforce public health requirements,” suggesting the state will dedicate little resources in enforcing it.
Several New York county executives have said they would not enforce Hochul’s mandate.
“My health department has critical things to do that are more important than enforcing this, and I think small businesses have been through enough already,” Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, a Republican, said earlier this month. “God forbid the governor directs the state police to go out and enforce it.”
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro told the New York Post that his office simply doesn’t have the resources or “even the desire” to enforce the mask-or-vaccine mandate.
The chief executive of Greene County, located in the Catskill Mountains, was quoted by the Post as saying that he doesn’t have the “staff to do enforcement, so we’re not even going to try to do enforcement.”
“What am I going to do, station somebody at a Walmart 24/7? It’s silly,” the executive, Shaun Groden, said. “My staff will have to mask up. But we’re not going to become the mask police.”
Contrary to Hochul’s mandate, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, also a Democrat, recently told news outlets that he doesn’t believe mask mandates work and pointed to a surge of COVID-19 cases in New York state.
Mask mandates are “not curbing the spike down in New York City, which is probably ground zero,” Lamont said. “If I think about things, I certainly think about nursing homes and other congregate settings where I think the booster shot is probably the number one priority, to make sure everybody that can be boosted is boosted there. That would be my next priority,” Lamont added.