New York State’s mask mandate on private business will expire on Thursday, February 10th, 2022. The mandate required mask-wearing indoors at all “indoor public places” (e.g., businesses) unless the business required proof of vaccination for entry.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced the withdrawal of the mandate on Wednesday, February 9. The mandate had been in effect since December 13, 2021, enacted as a response to a spike in COVID transmission rates brought on by the Delta and Omicron variants.

The mandate was formally implemented through a “Determination” by the N.Y. State Commissioner of Health, first published on December 10th and last updated on January 31, 2022. The Determination requires indoor mask wearing at a host of locations; private businesses were included by virtue of the Determination’s rules for “indoor public places.” The Determination’s January 31 update stated its mask mandate on private businesses would expire on February 10th; Governor Hochul’s announcement confirms that the state will not look to extend it. The Governor’s administration had previously extended the mandate beyond its original end date of January 15, 2021.

Notably, mask requirements will remain in place for the time being at many other locations—including schools, public transit, and healthcare settings.

Best Practices for Businesses

The withdrawal of the indoor mask mandate allows private businesses more latitude in setting their own COVID-prevention policies, but, businesses must keep in mind their obligations under other laws. For example: businesses may still require proof of vaccination and/or mask wearing, but must take into account possible accommodation requests due to medical or religious reasons from their employees (or patrons, clients, customers, etc.). Likewise, businesses considering a large-scale withdrawal of pandemic-era practices should note that New York State’s HERO Act remains in effect. The HERO Act requires private-sector businesses to implement “workplace safety plans” if-and-when the Department of Health designates a particular illness as a “highly contagious communicable disease.” The Department of Health gave COVID-19 that designation on September 6, 2021; the Commissioner is due to review the designation as of February 15th.

If you have any questions, please contact the Harris Beach attorney with whom you usually work.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.