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New York to follow CDC guidance on masks 

Starting Wednesday, vaccinated New Yorkers will no longer need to wear masks in many businesses and public settings consistent with recently released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

Vaccinated people will still have to wear masks in schools from Pre-K through grade 12, on public transit, and in homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare settings. Under both the state and CDC guidance, unvaccinated people will still be required to wear masks in all public places.

"New Yorkers have worked hard over the last year to prevent the spread of COVID and keep each other safe," Cuomo said during a news conference Monday. "That work has paid off and we are ecstatic to take this next step in the reopening of our beautiful state.”
click to enlarge A cloth face mask. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • A cloth face mask.
A news release from the governor’s office explained that New York officials adopted the CDC guidance in part because 52 percent of the state’s residents over age 18 had been fully vaccinated and 62 percent of New York adults had received at least one shot.

Cuomo's announcement follows several days of pressure from public officials, including County Executive Adam Bello,  Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, the County Legislature's Republican Majority Leader Steve Brew, and the state Republican Party.

But there are caveats in the new guidance. For example, businesses will still be able to require customers to wear masks in their establishments, as long as they stick to all applicable state and federal laws and regulations. Cuomo asked New Yorkers to be respectful of people who still feel safest wearing masks in public and of businesses that continue to require masks.

The state Health Department has also recommended wearing masks in indoor settings where the vaccination status of individuals is largely unknown.

The state is also relaxing capacity restrictions on businesses starting Wednesday, May 19. Percentage-based limits are out and occupancy will be limited based on the space they have available for customers to keep six feet apart.

But businesses won’t have to enforce the six-foot rule if they allow vaccinated customers only, according to the news release. In that case, customers would have to present proof of vaccination — paper forms, digital applications, and the state’s Excelsior Pass are all acceptable forms of proof.

Small scale events will be able to follow the same rules as businesses, stated the release. Large events will have to follow a complex set of criteria with different requirements for people who are vaccinated and for people who aren’t vaccinated or who have an unknown vaccination status.

Details on the new masking requirements are available at forward.ny.gov.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.

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