Hochul slams ‘political’ local officials for refusing to implement mandate

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to the press during a Dec. 14 briefing.
Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of the Governor

Gov. Kathy Hochul said she won’t play political games with local politicians across the state who have refused to follow her new vaccine-or-mask mandate for all indoor public spaces as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to rise.

“We have to get to a point of rational discussion about this and it’s not about scoring political points or getting headlines to call out the governor on an issue. That doesn’t affect a single thing I do,” Hochul told reporters during a press briefing on Tuesday, Dec. 14.

The mandate went into effect Monday and requires all New Yorkers to either show proof of vaccination or wear a mask in indoor public settings, and Hochul has said it will be up to local governments to enforce it, some of whom have now said they will refuse to do so.

Nassau County Executive-elect Bruce Blakeman, a Republican, said he will not enforce the mandate adding that the area is “not in crisis and should not be painted with the same broad brush as the rest of the state.”

The Long Island county had a 6.2% positivity rate across a seven-day average, above the statewide rate of 4.6% and New York City’s 2.9%, according to the latest stats from the state Health Department.

Nassau County Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is running against Hochul for the Democratic nomination in June, criticized the rollout of her new rules, but the governor said she won’t bow to the rhetoric.

“I’m not going to engage in a political discussion about this, because this is just too important. This is about getting us through this pandemic,” Hochul said in response Tuesday. “I would not be overconfident in any county about their current state of affairs with respect to this situation because we just don’t know what the future will bring.”

Hochul voiced her frustration as infections have increased by 58% since Thanksgiving, with hospitalizations rising by 70% during that time leading to lower capacity — especially in hospitals upstate.

“This is a crisis of the unvaccinated, did not have to be, totally preventable, so if I sound a little frustrated perhaps I am,” she said.

Meanwhile, only 2% more people since Thanksgiving have gotten vaccinated against COVID and almost one-in-four New Yorkers have yet to get inoculated at all, as Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the nation’s first shot that was administered to Queens nurse Sandra Lindsay.

“Literally one year ago today we had Sandra Lindsay become the first person in our state, the first one in the US was done right here in New York State,” Hochul said. “And today I should be able to say that it’s over because everyone took advantage of this opportunity created by science and the smartest people on this planet who gathered to help save lives.”