ALBANY, N.Y. — New York State's mask mandate has been extended.
According to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, the mandate has been extended to Feb. 1, 2022. The mandate was originally put into effect on Dec. 13 and was intended to continue until Jan. 15, 2022; however, the state has since extended that date in response to rising COVID-19 cases.
At this time, masks are not required at businesses or venues that have a vaccine requirement.
"I want to give everybody the heads up that this will continue just two more weeks beyond what we had originally planned," Hochul said. "Again, being very willing to reassess, hoping that the picture is much more positive in February. But again, we just don't have that information right now."
During a COVID-19 update Friday morning, Hochul stressed the importance of wearing a KN95 mask saying it is a "better, more effective mask." This was a topic that was discussed in great detail two days earlier in Erie County's COVID-19 update.
On Wednesday, Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said because the omicron variant of COVID-19 is two to three times more transmissible, it requires higher quality masks to reduce the risk of infection. Burstein went on to say that some situations have a higher level of risk of infection and require a better, more protective mask. These situations may include forms of public transportation, when someone is taking care of someone with COVID-19, and being out in public.
"And it's just not any cloth mask," Burstein said. "We need to have certain criteria in a mask that's effective. First of all, you want to try to get a mask that is the highest grade quality like a KN95, a KN94 — something that is very high quality. Or double mask — wear a disposable mask and a cloth mask. Get as high quality as you can. Also, you want the mask to fit your face really well."
Hochul says New York State is making sure these masks are available to everyone. As of Friday, Hochul says the state already sent 5 million KN95 masks to counties across New York. The governor went on to say that New York is also giving KN95 masks to state legislators who in turn will give the masks to local community centers, senior centers and places of worship. Hundreds of thousands of masks will also be given to nursing homes for visitors.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Wednesday that the county plans on distributing 400,000 KN95 masks starting this week.
The Erie County Department of Health will be giving out the masks at COVID-19 test sites and vaccine clinics. In addition, the county's social services and senior services departments will be handing out masks along with the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library branches, municipal emergency managers, local nonprofit agencies, and houses of worship.
"We now know that masks are important - they're an important line of defense," Hochul said.