Hochul unveils universal mask requirements amid rise of Delta variant

New York Governor Kathy Hochul attends the Prabal Gurung spring/summer 2022 fashion show at 20 Battery Place during New York Fashion Week on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021.
Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday unveiled a series of universal mask requirements designed to protect New Yorkers against the highly contagious Delta variant and the recent surge in COVID-19 infections statewide.

The requirement applies to New York State Office of Children and Family Services — licensed and — registered child care centers, home-based group family and family child care programs, after-school child care programs and enrolled legally exempt group programs during operational hours.

Hochul said implementing the mask regulation in child care programs will provide consistency between child care program children and school children, many of whom often share the same buildings.

New masking requirements will also apply to congregate programs and facilities licensed, registered, operated, certified or approved by the Office of Mental Health, the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, Office of Children and Family Services and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

This includes but is not limited to certified residential and day programs, inpatient and outpatient mental health facilities, substance abuse programs, juvenile detention programs, juvenile residential facilities, congregate foster care programs, runaway and homeless youth, domestic violence and other shelter programs. These requirements apply to anyone medically able to tolerate wearing a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

“With the Delta variant on the rise, requiring masks at state-regulated child care, mental health and substance abuse facilities is a key part of our broader strategy for slowing the spread of the virus, reopening our economy safely, and protecting vulnerable members of our population,” Gov. Hochul said.

“For children under 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, masks are the best line of defense against COVID-19 infection,” she added. “This new mask requirement ensures that children in our child care facilities receive the same protection as children in our schools.”

The Office of the Governor of the State of New York said the new mask requirement in child care facilities brings the state into compliance with federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued in July that recommends universal indoor masking for anyone age two and older who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, and is medically able to wear a mask.

The mandate also brings child care facilities in alignment with school masking requirements announced on Hochul’s first day in office.

For children under 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, masks are the best line of defense against COVID-19 infection, the governor said, adding that “this new mask requirement ensures that children in our child care facilities receive the same protection as children in our schools.”

Because the Delta variant is “so highly transmissible,” Hochul said there have been large increases in cases across all age groups.

“Because children under 12 years of age are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine, there have been large increases in cases among children, which translates to higher numbers of severe cases,” she said. “Additional protective measures will help to keep New York’s children safe at this important time.”

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