To browse and shop around the Brass Owl on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, Queens, you need to be masked up, no matter your vaccination status.
“We reopened in July of 2020 and have never stopped requiring masks,” explained boutique owner Nicole Panettieri.
So come Monday, when all indoor venues throughout the state require masks for anyone not fully vaccinated, nothing will change for Panettieri.
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the stricter measures Friday to address the worst COVID-19 surge the state has seen in over a year and a half.
According to the governor, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased 43% since Thanksgiving and hospitalizations are up 29% in the same time frame.
The mandate is welcome news for Panettieri.
“It is a huge relief for us to not have to fight with people and we also just don’t have the man power to do vaccination card checks, so it really is just the easiest way we can keep everyone safe,” Panettieri said.
But some New Yorkers say the mandate is an overreaction.
Though mindful of the new variant, many say because it is reportedly less severe, they are less concerned about the spread.
“I think the governmental intervention has many times been many times more harmful than the virus itself,” said Janice Ely.
Over the last few weeks, New Yorkers say it felt as though the country was settling into a new normal.
Some say the return of a mask mandate feels like a big step back.
“I think it is just overthinking,” said Arturo Rosales. “I don’t think it is right, I think it should be up to us at this point. There is mixed information out there: Put the mask on, no mask, two masks. It is out of control. It is the holidays, just leave us alone.”
It will be business as usual on Monday at the Brass Owl, and most other indoor venues in the five boroughs because of the city’s vaccine mandate.
Panettieri says she can sympathize with small business around the state who now need to comply during this busy time of year.
“Customers have gotten used to being able to go into their small local shops without masks, so it is going to be an uphill battle for people to have to tell their customers now we do require it."
The governor said the mandate will be re-evaluated on Jan. 15.