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Suozzi faults Gov. Hochul over rollout of new vaccine/mask mandate

U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove ) speaks

U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove ) speaks at a news conference on July 30 in Washington, D.C. Credit: Sipa USA / Michael Brochstein

ALBANY — Rep. Thomas Suozzi said Monday that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s rollout of a new indoor mask mandate is "causing chaos and confusion."

Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) also said he, unlike state Attorney General Letitia James, is remaining in the Democratic primary to challenge Hochul and contended that James’ departure helps his chances.

The Long Island congressman made the remarks in a news conference Monday, hours after the Hochul administration imposed a new vaccine or mask requirement for indoor public places. The emergency regulation will run until Jan. 15 to try to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the holiday season.

The Democratic governor said it will be up to counties to enforce it, but already seven counties said they won’t, either because they lack the personnel or don’t agree with the mandate.

Suozzi said the requirement, announced Friday, didn’t give businesses and counties time to prepare.

"It’s not the mask mandate that’s causing chaos. It’s the rollout," the congressman said. "It’s causing businesses to say, ‘What do you mean? You told me on Friday? Now, Monday, I’m supposed to enforce this’?"

Suozzi added: "It’s not a plan and it’s not being sold to the public. How is that seven counties are saying they aren’t going to enforce the law. … Lack of a comprehensive plan is causing chaos, confusion and delay."

By the end of the day, leaders at least nine counties — all Republican-led, including Nassau County — said they wouldn’t enforce the mandate because of lack of personnel and other reasons.

The Hochul campaign didn’t immediately respond. Previously, the governor has said she has an "expansive strategy" that is already doing many of the things Suozzi supports, such as increasing vaccination sites and public messaging and targeting hard hit areas by ZIP code.

Separately, Suozzi said he is staying in the gubernatorial primary despite pressure from other party members to instead run for reelection to Congress. He said James’ departure from the race helps him — although some analysts have suggested he and Hochul are contending for the same mainstream, moderate Democrats. New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a favorite of some progressives, also remains in the race.

"I am staying the race. I will be running for the governor in the primary on June 28," said Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive. "And I believe if I talk about the governor’s record and her lack of executive experience and the fact that she hasn’t laid out a vision yet and if I talk about my executive experience, my common sense I’ve had throughout my career and my accomplishments throughout my career, and my vision for New York State … that I will win this race."

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