Gov. Hochul Announces Series of Universal Mask Requirements to Protect New Yorkers amid Rise of Delta Variant

(Photo Source: governor.ny.gov).

Press release from governor.ny.gov.

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced 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. 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,” Governor 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. This new mask requirement ensures that children in our child care facilities receive the same protection as children in our schools.”

The new mask requirement in child care facilities brings New York 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. It also brings child care facilities in alignment with school masking requirements announced on Governor Hochul’s first day in office.

Because the Delta variant is so highly transmissible, 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. Additional protective measures will help to keep New York’s children safe at this important time.

OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, “We have heard from many parents and residents of congregate settings asking that the state require masking because child care and congregate residential programs will not require that protection without a state requirement. We want to keep all children and staff in child care programs, as well as staff and residents of congregate residential programs, safe from the spread of infection and wearing a mask is the best tool we have. Children want to be like the adults around them and will easily adapt to the mask wearing requirement.”

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “It is clear that masks help control and prevent the spread of infection. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, OMH has issued guidance for our State operated facilities and clinics as well as community-based mental healthcare providers recommending and encouraging the use of masks and other protective measures. I am very pleased that Governor Hochul has taken this step to establish and strengthen mask requirements that will protect healthcare workers, our patients and clients, and our communities from COVID-19.”