As we wrote about here, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) imposed a vaccine-or-mask mandate on businesses in the Empire State. The mandate took effect on December 13, and required businesses to implement either a mandatory mask policy or a COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Whichever requirement was chosen, it had to apply to everyone—meaning that businesses could not mix and match.
In response to declining COVID transmission rates, the Governor lifted the mandate effective February 10, with three important caveats.
First, the mandate still applies to the following business categories:
- State-regulated health care settings
- State-regulated adult care facilities and nursing homes
- Correctional facilities
- Schools and child care centers
- Homeless shelters
- Domestic violence shelters
- Public transit and hubs
Second, businesses are still free to continue their mask-or-vax policies on their own. Unlike laws in states such as Florida, the New York order is not an “anti-mandate mandate.” Businesses can still require staff, patrons, visitors, and guests to wear a mask or show proof of vaccination as a condition of entry.
Third, although the New York HERO Act’s model plan has been amended to remove masking requirements consistent with Gov. Hochul’s order, the model plan still recommends the following for businesses:
- “[I]f indoor areas do not have a mask or vaccine requirement as a condition of entry, appropriate face coverings are recommended, but not required.”
- “It is also recommended that face coverings be worn by unvaccinated individuals, including those with medical exemptions[.]”
- The state “continue[s] to strongly recommend face coverings in all public indoor settings as an added layer of protection, even when not required.”
Keep in mind that Gov. Hochul’s recent order does not affect the vaccination mandate that applies in New York City, which we wrote about here and here, and which requires employers in the five boroughs of the City to require their employees to be vaccinated, subject to certain accommodations for religious and medical reasons. Nor does it affect “Key to NYC,” which requires customers to show proof of vaccination before entering an indoor restaurant, fitness, or entertainment space in the City.