On December 10, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. This major action to address the winter surge comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise statewide and is in alignment with the CDC’s recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission. The State Health Commissioner issued a determination solidifying the requirement.
When do the new requirements go into effect?
The new requirements go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday December 13, 2021 through January 15, 2022, at which time the State will re-evaluate next steps.
Information for Businesses and Venues
How is ‘indoor public place’ defined, and what type of businesses and venues are included under this requirement?
Indoor public place is defined as any indoor space that is not a private residence. This means businesses and venues New Yorkers typically frequent that are either publicly owned or owned by private business entities. This includes indoor entertainment venues, concert halls, indoor sports stadiums, recreational spaces, restaurants, office buildings, shopping centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, houses of worship and common areas in residential buildings.
Does this policy apply to office spaces?
Yes, the requirement applies to all non-private residences, including office spaces. If the office does not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, everyone must wear masks at all times regardless of vaccination status except when eating, drinking, or alone in an enclosed room.
What about businesses covered under the NY HERO act?
Employers must continue to comply with the NYS Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO ACT), which affords protections for private sector employees against an airborne infectious disease outbreak by requiring employers to ensure employees wear appropriate face coverings in accordance with Department of Health guidance. For purposes of complying with the NY HERO Act, the Commissioner’s Determination constitutes Department of Health guidance related to face coverings, meaning employers must ensure their employees adhere to masking requirements or require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry into the business.
If eating or drinking is a part of my business or venue establishment, and I have a mask requirement in place, what am I supposed to do when guests are eating or drinking?
Patrons of your establishment can remove their masks only while they are actively eating or drinking, at which time appropriate social distancing measures, proper air ventilation, and filtration methods are highly recommended. Masks should be worn in all other instances outside of physical eating or drinking.
What if I’m eating or drinking at a restaurant or bar?
If a business or venue does not require proof of full vaccination, all employees and patrons must have their mask on at all times regardless of vaccination status, except when necessary to eat or drink.
What about private events held at a public indoor space, such as a wedding hosted at a restaurant or venue?
Private residences are not included. However, for private events held indoors at a business or venue—for example, a wedding taking place at a privately-owned restaurant or venue—the business entity/venue must require masking or proof of vaccination as a condition of entry.
What exactly are the requirements?
Any person, past their second birthday and medically able to tolerate a face covering, must wear an appropriate mask while in any indoor place, regardless of vaccination status. However, businesses and venues can choose to implement a vaccination requirement, requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of entry inside the business or venue. Whichever requirement is selected, it must apply to all within the business/venue’s capacity, including staff, patrons, visitors, and guests. A business and venue cannot do a “combination” requirement. Please see below for the details of each requirement option:
Business/Venue Proof of Vaccination Requirement
Businesses and venues that implement a proof of vaccination requirement must ensure that anyone 12 years of age or older is fully vaccinated before entering indoors. Businesses/venues can accept Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State, full-course vaccination through NYC COVID Safe app, a CDC Vaccination Card, or other official immunization record.
In accordance with CDC’s definition, fully vaccinated is defined as 14 days past an individual’s last vaccination dose in their initial vaccine series (14 days past the second shot of a two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine; 14 days past the one-shot Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine). The State also accepts WHO-approved vaccines for these purposes. Parents and guardians can retrieve and store an Excelsior Pass and/or Excelsior Pass Plus for children or minors under legal guardianship.
Vaccines for children ages 5-11 have only been available since November 2021. Therefore, in order to enter a business or venue that implements a proof of vaccination requirement, children ages 5 – 11 only have to show proof of having had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.
Vaccines have been available for 16–17-year-olds since April 2021 and for 12-15-year-olds since May 2021. At the time of the determination, 63% of the 12-17 age group has been fully vaccinated in New York State.
Business/Venue Mask-Wearing Requirement
Businesses and venues that implement a mask requirement must ensure all patrons past their second birthday and medically able to tolerate a face covering wear a mask at all times while indoors, outside of physical eating or drinking.
Can a business or venue “mix and match”? For example, can a business or venue allow fully vaccinated patrons to be unmasked, but unvaccinated or partially vaccinated patrons to wear masks in the same indoor facility? What about allowing patrons to be unmasked when everyone in in the facility is fully vaccinated, but asking everyone in the facility to wear a mask when someone who is unvaccinated or partially vaccinated enters?
No. A business or venue must choose whether it will implement a full-course vaccine requirement or a mask requirement, which applies to both patrons and employees and then must be followed in its entirety throughout the facility at all times each day.
Continued Masking Requirements
Unvaccinated individuals, including those with medical exemptions, continue to be responsible for wearing masks, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Further, the State’s masking requirements continue to be in effect for pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, health care, child care, group homes, and other sensitive settings per CDC guidelines.
New York State and the State’s Department of Health continue to strongly recommend mask-wearing in all public indoor settings as an added layer of protection, even when not required. Children 2 – 5 who remain ineligible for vaccination must wear a proper-fitting mask.
New York State has created resources to support New York businesses and venues in communicating the new requirements to their patrons.
The following materials can be displayed in your business or venue depending on which option the business or venue chooses to implement: proof of full-course vaccination or a mask requirement.
December 13, 2021: This poster can be printed and displayed by businesses requiring proof of vaccination. DOWNLOAD