California and New York Reinstate Mask Mandates This Week

mask mandates in nyc

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Key Takeaways

  • California and New York State are reinstating indoor mask mandate this week because of rising COVID-19 cases and the spread of the Omicron variant.
  • In communities with lower vaccination coverage, case numbers and hospitalizations have spiked Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Health officials hope the new restrictions will curb the spread of COVID-19 as more people gather indoors for the holidays.

California will reinstate its indoor mask mandate starting on December 15 through at least January 15 due to rising COVID-19 case numbers and concerns about the Omicron variant

COVID-19 case rates in California have increased 47% since Thanksgiving, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). 

To curb the spread of both Delta and Omicron, the CDPH also recommended that all travelers arriving in California test for COVID-19 within three to five days after arrival regardless of vaccination status. 

Additionally, unvaccinated people are required to show a negative rapid test within one day of a “mega event,” or a negative PCR test within two days prior to the event.

What Is a Mega Event?

According to the CDPH, a mega event involves a crowd of over 1,000 participants indoors or 10,000 people outdoors. Examples include concerts and sporting events.

“Our collective actions can save lives this holiday season. We are already seeing a higher level of transmission this winter and it is important to act now to prevent overwhelming our busy hospitals so we can provide quality health care to all Californians," Tomás J. Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer, said in a statement.

In New York State, Governor Kathy Hochul reinstated the mask mandate on Monday amid a spike in coronavirus cases.

All businesses, including offices and restaurants, must check for proof of vaccination for anyone 12 years or older or require visitors to be masked. Businesses that fail to comply could face penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation. 

For children ages 5 to 11, proof is only needed for at least one dose of vaccination to enter restaurants or entertainment venues, since the vaccine was only authorized for that age group last month.

More than 80% of adult New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, but the uptick of new cases and hospitalizations among communities with low vaccination coverage is adding pressure to the strained hospital systems.

"I have warned for weeks that additional steps could be necessary, and now we are at that point based upon three metrics: increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity, and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas," Governor Hochul said.

New York City may not see any big changes from the new statewide mandate as most businesses have adopted the proof of vaccination requirements since September. The mandate will likely affect counties that have lower vaccination rates. 

The state will reevaluate the next steps by January 15. In addition to California and New York, several other states including Washington, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Nevada, and parts of Hawaii have similar mask mandates in place.

According to a recent study by the National Institute of Health, states that instituted mask mandates in 2020 saw a 29% reduction in COVID-19 spread.

The New York State Department of Health said that the mask-wearing measure will add an extra layer of mitigation during the holidays when more people gather indoors and travel to holiday-themed destinations. Health officials are also encouraging eligible people to get a COVID-19 booster as soon as possible.

What This Means For You

If you're traveling to another state or city this holiday season, check the local department of health website to learn about any changes or updates in COVID-19 restrictions before you go.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. AARP. State-by-State Guide to Face Mask Requirements.

  2. Liu X, Xu X, Li G, et al. Differential impact of non-pharmaceutical public health interventions on COVID-19 epidemics in the United StatesBMC Public Health. 2021;21(1):965. doi:10.1186/s12889-021-10950-2

By Daphne Lee
Daphne Lee is a senior news editor at Verywell Health.