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What they're saying about New York's new mask mandate

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul speaks at the January 2021 opening of the state-run COVID-19 vaccination site at the Dome Arena.
Max Schulte/WXXI News
Then-Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at the January 2021 opening of the state-run COVID-19 vaccination site at the Dome Arena.

Reaction about New York’s new indoor masking mandate is rolling in. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday thatall businesses in the state must require masks or check vaccination status on entry starting Monday.

A joint statement from Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and County Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza:

“Governor Hochul’s announcement today is in line with the State of Emergency in effect here in Monroe County and reinforces what we’ve been urging residents to do as we’ve seen our hospitalization numbers increase – wear a mask when in indoor public spaces and get vaccinated. My office has been in contact with leaders in the business community, and we are prepared to provide any necessary support once we see the full details of these new measures.

In the interim, we encourage residents to take advantage of the free rapid test kits that Monroe County is making available to ensure we are gathering safely this holiday season. Residents can contact their local municipality for additional details regarding distribution events.”

A statement from City of Rochester Communications Director Justin Roj:

The City is aware that Governor Hochul’s order to implement a mask mandate in indoor, public places begins on Monday and we will work, as always, with our business community to comply with State’s direction. We will await additional guidance from Monroe County regarding resources to further assist Rochester’s businesses. We are grateful that County leadership has pledged to provide it.

It is critical that our community continues to protect itself by getting vaccinated or boosted, wearing masks when indoors in public spaces and testing before attending gatherings. The City of Rochester is beginning its free, rapid test kit distribution tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 11 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Adams Street and Thomas P. Ryan R-Centers. More information on test kit availability and other COVID-related resources is available at

A statement from Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Bob Duffy:

“Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce has always supported allowing businesses an opportunity to lead before the implementation of mandates. That said, Governor Hochul held off on instituting widespread directives to give the chance for self-correction. With the increasing trend in positivity rates and hospitalizations across the state, the Governor decided that action was necessary.

Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and a significant number of our members have already had in place for months mask and/or vaccination mandates for both visitors and staff. Each week I am in dozens of businesses and have been impressed both by the leadership they show in insisting on masks or vaccination for entry, and by the voluntary compliance I have seen among customers who take it upon themselves to be safe. Such policies are good practice and help to keep safe employees, patrons, and the community at large.

We will continue working with businesses, government, and our healthcare systems to help stop the spread and get our region back on track. The sooner we do, the sooner these mandates will be lifted. As always, our office will be available to help answer questions and assist businesses in navigating these difficult times.”

In an interview, Rochester Chapter of New York State Restaurant Association President Kelly Metras said business owners will have to adapt. She also said enforcing mask mandates was one the toughest parts of running a business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In everything we’ve gone through over the last almost two years now, the mask mandates were the most contentious, and were the cause of the most backlash from customers even though it’s not our fault. It caused the most of our staff to quit, it caused the most of our staff to cry at work, to lose their minds, to get called names, to get berated. Most of our customers are great, it's just a few that have caused problems and it's all about mask mandates.”

“Support small businesses by doing what you need to do, if the governor says we need to wear masks to stay open than wear a mask.”

Melissa Fleischut, leader of the President and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association said Friday, that she appreciates the fact that the governor has taken a step that impacts all businesses and doesn’t’ single out the hospitality industry.

``Since the beginning of this, we've tried to remind people time and time again, that hospitality industry was not an industry that saw large community spread from our indoor dining,” said Fleischut. ``Business owners are going to have the opportunity to do a mask mandate or a vaccine mandate, whatever they feel is right for their business.”

Fleischut said masks or the vaccine are much preferred over a shutdown, like a year ago when most businesses when operations were limited.

When contacted by WXXI News, Wegmans offered this response to the new mandate:

"Where mandated at the state or local level, customers are required to wear a face mask, regardless of vaccination status, while shopping in our stores. We are focused on complying with these mandates, while keeping the health and safety of our employees and customers a top priority. Our service desks will continue offering free masks to customers who need one."

"All employees are required to wear a face mask in our stores, even if not mandated at the state or local level."

Wegmans did not offer any additional comment about how any state or local mandate would be enforced in their stores.

A spokesperson for Tops Markets said that, "As we have done in the past, Tops will continue to comply with whatever mandates are in place. Our employees have been required to wear masks in our stores since August 2021."

Tops did not supply any additional statement regarding enforcement of the mask policy.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.
Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
Alex Crichton is host of All Things Considered on WXXI-FM 105.9/AM 1370. Alex delivers local news, weather and traffic reports beginning at 4 p.m. each weekday.