On December 10, 2021, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced (the “Announcement”) that, effective December 13, 2021, masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues require: (1) anyone twelve (12) years of age or older to show proof of “full vaccination” against COVID-19 and (2) children age five (5) to eleven (11) to show proof of having had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.  The State subsequently issued Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) regarding the Announcement to provide additional guidance regarding the new requirements and certain industry-specific information.

The Announcement states that: “[i]n 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 Announcement provides that New York State accepts WHO-approved vaccines for these purposes as well.

Acceptable forms of proof of vaccination include any one of the following:

  • New York State Excelsior Pass;
  • Excelsior Pass Plus;
  • SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State;
  • CDC Vaccination Card; or
  • Other official immunization record.

Businesses and venues that do not require the above proof of vaccination prior to entry, “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.”

Notably, the Announcement states that, “[u]nvaccinated individuals continue to be responsible for wearing masks in accordance with federal CDC guidance.”

Employers in the food service, event, personal care (i.e., salons, spas, barber shops, etc.), and TV or film production industries should pay particular attention to the industry-specific information included in the FAQs.

This proof of COVID-19 vaccine or masking requirement will remain in effect until January 15, 2022.  The Announcement states that the State will reassess the measure after January 15, 2022 “based on current conditions.”

Businesses and venues that fail to comply with the Announcement are subject to “all civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation.”  The FAQs provide that local health departments can enforce these requirements.