Last Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul reaffirmed a state mandate requiring mask use in public spaces such as stores and restaurants for the unvaccinated, or, for those who have received their Covid-19 shots, showing proof of vaccination in order to remove their facial coverings through Jan. 15. The move came after months of inaction following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s rescinding of an order mandating masks for all in public spaces last May and June.
It was premature of Cuomo to drop the requirement, given that 30 percent of New Yorkers at the time were not vaccinated — and unless shops and restaurants checked people’s vaccination cards, they could not assess whether paying customers were vaccinated or not. The state, however, never required businesses to check proof of vaccination, though New York City did in September — a wise move indeed.
The result? For months, we’ve seen a majority of Nassau County residents abandon the use of masks, regardless of vaccination status, even in tightly packed spaces like the Long Island Rail Road, where the mask mandate remained on trains for all, even after Cuomo’s decision.
Now we’re seeing the coronavirus infection rate quickly ticking up again.
We know masks can be annoying. They can cause chafing and “maskne,” red marks where the mask touches the skin. They can make it a little more difficult to breathe. And they hide our faces, inhibiting person-to-person interaction.
Masks have always been a vital tool in the fight against Covid-19, however. That is why the Herald has continued to advocate for their voluntary use in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status, even after Cuomo rescinded the state’s mask mandate.
Local health departments will be responsible for carrying out Hochul’s order. We trust that the Nassau County Health Department, under the outgoing county executive, Laura Curran, and her incoming successor, Bruce Blakeman, will take the order seriously and carry it out to protect residents’ health — and the health of businesses that might shut down if the pandemic were to rage out of control again.