Saturday, December 18, 2021

FASCIST STATE NY: Rogue Governor Hochul Orders Statewide Mask-or-Vax Mandate with $1K Fines for Businesses

Source: NY Post

Published: December 10, 2021

By: Nolan Hicks, Bernadette Hogan, and Lydia Moynihan

Gov. Hochul on Friday ordered all offices, restaurants, shops and other businesses statewide to require staff and customers either show proof of vaccination or wear masks — otherwise the owners will face a $1,000 fine per violation.

The new mandate on businesses — many of which are struggling to recover from pandemic lockdowns and battling workforce shortages — will take effect Monday and applies statewide.

Businesses that fail to enforce the rules could be subject to civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation.

It will remain in force until Jan. 15, when it could be extended, officials said. The governor’s office said local health departments will be in charge of enforcement.

“I speak all over the state and they’re asking for help. They’ve done everything they can, I applaud our local governments, our county executives, our county administrators and the local public health departments for doing what they can do,” Hochul told reporters after an unrelated event in Manhattan on Friday. “I said I’ll give them air cover, I will give them the protection.”

“This was completely avoidable — [a] completely avoidable circumstance,” the governor continued. “This is a crisis of the unvaccinated.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul has ordered a new statewide mask-or-vax mandate. - Matthew McDermott

The new rules require businesses to either have their customers and staff mask up before coming inside or to limit entry to those who are fully vaccinated.

Workers back at their desks would also be required to show vaccine proof or wear masks while on the clock, state officials later confirmed.

That falls short of Mayor de Blasio’s hotly disputed decision this week to require private employers to vaccinate their staff before they return to the office.  

Hochul’s regulations continue to define inoculations as following two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one-shot solution from Johnson and Johnson.

The CDC vaccination card and the state’s digital Excelsior Pass program will both count as acceptable forms of vaccination proof.

A top public relations executive in New York called it a big blow to employers’ efforts to get their businesses — and the city — back to normal functioning.

From a business perspective it’s very damaging for back-to-office,” said Ronn Torossian, who heads the firm 5WPR. “It’s already cold outside and then to sit in an office and wear a mask.

“Businesses have to tread lightly getting people back to the office anyway. Everyone is dealing with labor shortages. This might be a good move for public health but it’s certainly not positive for the back to work effort.”

Businesses upstate echoed the sentiment.

“We’re a seasonal area so if people don’t feel comfortable coming out and supporting local businesses around the holidays it could be yet another huge blow to our economy,” said Brendan Munrane, who owns the Bolton Landing Brewing Company in Lake George.

“We’ll follow the protocols and pray for the best,” he added. “We had the same spike last year at this time so let’s just hope this doesn’t continue.”

New York’s biggest business groups endorsed the new proposal as many major employers pointed out they’ve been operating under similar rules for months, though there was some criticism from those who represent smaller retailers.

“Unlike New York City, New York State checked in before their announcement and have designed a program that recognizes and provides some flexibility in the vaccination and mask policy that’s consistent with what is practical for most businesses to implement,” said Kathy Wylde, who heads the Partnership for New York City.

The Real Estate Board of New York — the main lobby group for city developers — issued a statement saying it supported the policy too.

One upstate business advocacy group applauded Hochul’s move, calling it the best outcome from a series of bad potential options.

“While this isn’t an ideal situation, we applaud Governor Hochul for balancing the well-being of New Yorkers and the health of the state’s economy,” said the director of Upstate United, Justin Wilcox. “The last thing that struggling businesses need or want is another shutdown.”

“However,” he added, “considering all of the other challenges that employers are dealing with right now, we have serious concerns about the safety of employees who will be responsible for enforcing this mask mandate.”

Some upstate politicians pushed back, too, with local leaders in four counties — Madison, Niagara, Rockland and Onondaga — issuing statements saying they would not enforce the fines. 

“The choice to vaccinate and protect oneself belongs to the individual,” said the head of Madison County Board Chairman John Becker.

State data shows that the COVID positivity rate in Madison is 9.8 percent and that only 66 percent of residents are fully inoculated.  

Hochul’s order comes as upstate communities struggle with a weeks-long series of coronavirus outbreaks, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant and exacerbated by some of the lowest inoculation rates in the state.

The governor pointed to those low vaccination rates to explain her move Friday, which came after days of hesitation and criticism from her allies in the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

“I was watching vaccination rates. They’re outstanding in some areas,” she said, before adding that she’d “talked to a county executive in a county where only 45% of the residents are vaccinated.”

“That triggers to me that we’re not getting the compliance,” Hochul added. We also have the [Omicron] variant spreading. It is now a community spread.”

Officials said yesterday the tally of Omicron cases across the state now stood at 20 — including 13 in New York City — and that it will continue to grow. The data shows that most of the cases across the state remain of the much-feared and hyper-contagious Delta variant.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office said local health agencies will be in charge of enforcing the rules.- Matthew McDermott

Western New York is suffering through high caseloads and a testing positivity rate that’s ranged between 10-11 percent in recent days, ditto the Finger Lakes where between 9 and 10 percent of tests are coming back positive. Things are scarcely better in the North Country or Mohawk Valley, where testing rates remain well above 8 percent.

Thirty-two upstate hospitals have delayed or suspended non-emergency procedures to free up space for coronavirus patients, according to state figures provided Friday evening.

State data shows that unvaccinated New Yorkers account for virtually all of the hospitalizations. 

Reaction to Hochul’s move from Democrats and Republicans largely split along party lines.

“I strongly oppose the Governor’s unilateral decision to impose a statewide mask mandate,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Long Island), who is the heavy favorite to challenge Hochul on the GOP ticket in 2022.

Zeldin’s statement also reiterated his opposition to Hochul’s inoculation requirement for hospital and nursing home staff, her coronavirus testing order for unvaccinated state government employees and her recent executive action requiring capacity-strained hospitals to free up beds for COVID patients.

“I also oppose her threatening rhetoric and firing of essential workers and her recent order to end elective procedures at hospitals across the state,” he added.

Meanwhile, Hochul’s rivals in the Democratic primary, Rep. Tom Suozzi and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams endorsed the move but pressed her to go further.

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