The spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19 could make for a "tough winter" in the coming weeks, Gov. Kathy Hochul warned on Thursday as she urged New Yorkers to wear masks while indoors and to get vaccinated and receive booster shots. 

Mandated mask wearing this week indoors is in effect unless a business requires customers to show proof of vaccination, though a handful of counties are not enforcing the rule in the state. 

Hochul told reporters at a briefing in Albany on the pandemic the state may soon require the booster dose of the vaccine to be considered "fully" vaccinated for COVID-19. 

But the indoor mask rule remains in effect for at least another month as health officials watch rising case rates around New York.

"This can be the least intrusive thing we can ask people to do," Hochul said. "We're asking people to follow common sense. Get vaccinated, get boosted. Please don't take a chance." 

COVID-19 cases have steadily risen across New York in recent weeks, with a spike soon after Thanksgiving, as well as a sharp rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, now at more than 3,000 people statewide. That has led to a staffed bed shortage in some hospitals, and state health officials have limited elective procedures and surgeries at 32 hospitals in the state. 

Seventy-one people have died of COVID-19 in the last day in New York. 

Nevertheless, some local governments have rejected enforcement of the mask-or-vaccinate mandate, which the governor has for now left up to local municipalities. 

Incoming state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett at a news conference in Albany warned the omicron variant can spread far more quickly than delta. At the moment, that version of the virus is believed to be less lethal. But unvaccinated people, or people who are in the at-risk health population, could still be affected. 

"People are underestimating the power of omicron," Hochul said. 

Still, the efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus has been met with opposition in some areas of New York. Republican Nassau County Executive-elect Bruce Blakeman has indicated his administration will not enforce the mandate when he takes office next month. 

Republicans in the state Legislature have introduced measures to scale back the power of state agencies to extend emergency rules like the mask mandate, which is due to expire on Jan. 15. 

Having the mask mandate in place, in part, is meant to avoid another broad shutdown of the economy, and the closing of businesses, schools and other public gathering places, Hochul said. 

New York is also moving to provide at-home COVID test kits to targeted zip codes where cases are high in addition to the ongoing vaccination and booster shot distribution. 

Hochul urged the media in particular to emphasize mask wearing and vaccination, not the opposition to the mandates. 

"I think we're focusing on a few outlier counties who have declared their resistance," Hochul said. "The vast majority are following it."