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Free Pass To New York State Parks Offered To Unvaccinated Who Agree To Get A Shot

Covid-19 Vaccine
SCOTT HEINS/OFFICE OF GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO
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New York state is offering a new incentive to get more people vaccinated — free passes to state parks this Memorial Day weekend.

Meanwhile, some state lawmakers want to rescind a controversial mask mandate for young children at day care centers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, appearing at Jones Beach on Long Island, said Monday that unvaccinated New Yorkers going to a participating state park this weekend will be able to get a shot at a pop-up vaccine clinic. In exchange, they will receive a free two-day pass to all state-run parks in New York.

“Stop, get a vaccine, you get a two-day free pass to come into any state park,” said Cuomo, who added the shots will be available at all 16 of the state’s parks that are participating.

It’s the second time in recent days that the governor has offered incentives to the unvaccinated.

Those who get vaccinated at state-run sites through this coming Friday get a lottery ticket to become eligible for a $5 million drawing.

Among New Yorkers 18 or older, 54.9% have received all of their required doses. But when children are counted, the total number of New Yorkers completely vaccinated stands at 44.1%, and the rate of vaccinations has stalled.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the state Legislature sid they want lawmakers to rescind a new mask mandate imposed by Cuomo on young children at day care centers.

Up until now, children not yet in kindergarten did not have to wear masks. Now, all children over the age of 2 will have wear face coverings while at day care centers.

The directive comes as other rules on wearing masks and social distancing are easing for the fully vaccinated.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt said the order is impractical and is upsetting many of his constituents.

“My office has been inundated with phone calls from parents, with phone calls from providers,” Ortt said. “Parents are angry, the parents are frustrated, the parents think this is ridiculous.”

Ortt said day care providers are confused and wonder if they will face fines if a small child takes their mask off.

Cuomo did not mention the day care mask mandate at Monday’s event, but when a reporter asked him about it on May 20, he said he was simply following new rules issued by the Centers for Disease Control earlier this month. He said he understands they might be hard to follow.

“Can you imagine a child care provider trying to put masks on 3- and 4-year-olds and have them keep them on all day long, so I get it,” said Cuomo, who added state health officials are trying to work with day care providers to help them adhere to the new rules.

“But it’s a federal guideline, based on the science,” he said.

Ortt said in the past, Cuomo has selectively followed CDC guidance. He said “common sense” shows the mask requirement is impractical.

“It seems like we’ve really jumped the shark in this COVID narrative that we’ve been living in for the past year,” Ortt said.

Ortt urged Democrats, who lead both houses of the Legislature, to act with Republicans to rescind the day care mask order.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.