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Gov. Hochul defends mask mandate during COVID-19 briefing at NYS Fairgrounds

hochul ems workers.jpg
Scott Willis
Gov. Hochul thanks EMS workers from many agencies who gathered at the Expo Center Tuesday.

Governor Kathy Hochul delivered a COVID-19 briefing from the Expo Center at the state fairgrounds Tuesday, where she pleaded with New Yorkers to do their part to fight infection and illness.

"This time last year we were literally opening sites like this for vaccinations. Now there's no reason not to be vaccinated. No reason not to be boosted. No reason not to understand that the masks are making a difference. And that's why we're focused on all these tools. So the winter surge is not over, but we are in a far better position to deal with it."

Hochul says the numbers are looking better than just a couple weeks ago. There’s been a 86 percent drop in cases since January 7th, and a 25 percent drop in hospitalizations statewide in just the last week. She insists that masks continue to be an effective protective measure, despite the ruling from a state supreme court judge that declared her indoor mask mandate unlawful. A stay has since been granted, meaning the mandate remains during appeal. Hochul says the last thing she wants to see is an upward trend because people gave up on masks.

"I am so looking forward to the day when we say 'these are history. We don't have to do this any longer.' All of us are," she said as she held up her mask. "I don't want to keep any safety requirements in place a day longer than necessary. But I will not do it a day before we can do it safely. I encourage people to continue to follow what has been in place."

Hochul says masks are why children are able to safely attend school.

"Look at what's happening across the rest of the country. People aren't taking the same steps we took. They were not aggressive in getting testing kits out. They don't have a mask requirement. Kids are getting sick. They're going home, and their educations have been disrupted. I don't want to see that happen in the State of New York."

She says she’ll continue to monitor metrics including vaccination rates and hospitalizations before making a decision. Hochul says she continues to be surprised and disappointed in the 26 percent vaccination rate among 5 to 11 year olds.

"This has been out for awhile. There's plenty of places. There's no excuses. Let's ramp up the outreach to people we know. Our elected officials, the media, parents, community leaders, please help us. It's free, doctors endorse this, and it keeps families healthy."

The state is hosting nearly four dozen NEW pop up vaccination sites across the state over the next six weeks, for a total of 76 aimed at children 5 to 17. More information can be found here.

Mike Groll/Mike Groll/Office of Governor Ka
Governor Kathy Hochul updates New Yorkers on the state’s progress combating COVID-19 at the Expo Center.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at