UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – Oneida County is re-instituting a mandatory mask policy for public indoor places effective Monday, December 13th. Masks must be worn inside all public places. This mandate will be in effect until January 10, 2022.

Oneida County executive Anthony Picente made the announcement Thursday morning at a breakfast meeting at the Harts Hill Inn in Whitesboro. Part of Picente’s announcement includes the fact that the new mask policy will be evaluated prior to the January 10th expiration date to see if any changes are warranted.

“Case numbers remain high and our hospitals are at capacity,” Picente said. “We must put more safeguards in place to protect our residents, especially during the increased activity of the holiday season. Combined with increased booster vaccines, these temporary mask and temperature check orders will aid us in reducing the spread of COVID at this busy time of year without placing capacity restrictions on businesses, organizations and events,” said Picente.

The mask mandate pertains only to public indoor places; stores, theaters, restaurants and sporting venues. For private indoor events; weddings, private parties, masks would not be required as long as a temperature check is administered and he individual does not have a fever above 100.3. Any venue can opt out of the mask mandate if they admit only vaccinated individuals. Proof of vaccination would have to be obtained via either a valid vaccination card or New York State Excelsior Pass.

“If it’s in your home we’re not looking in the windows, we’re not doing any of that. If its in an establishment of any kind in which it is a private gathering or function or fundraiser,” said Picente.

If an establishment does not comply with the mandate, under the Public Health Law, they can receive a Civil Penalty starting at up to $2,000. The County Executive says that they will work with the sheriffs office to make sure that this is enforced.

“In terms of enforcement, if we get complaints or as we go about this if there’s businesses that are not doing it or not enforcing it, we’ll give warnings as they go,” said Picente.

The Adirondack Bank Center falls under the mask mandate. When asked about the new mandate, President of the Utica Comets Robert Esche says he was unaware of this new order until today.

“I guess after this we’ll regroup and see what it all means,” said Esche.

Oneida County has averaged over 180 new COVID positives a day over the past five days. There were also 11 COVID related deaths recorded in the county. Oneida County also reported 2 cases of the Omicron Variant.

Two other counties from the Capitol District, Albany and Schenectady counties, also reinstituted mask mandates earlier this week in the face of rising COVID numbers.