New York ditches face masks for vaccinated people as California opts to keep them

·3 min read
Customers wait in a line before entering a store on Broadway while wearing protective masks in the retail shopping district of the SoHo neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of New York, Friday, May 14, 2021.  (AP)
Customers wait in a line before entering a store on Broadway while wearing protective masks in the retail shopping district of the SoHo neighborhood of the Manhattan borough of New York, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP)

New York state will adopt new CDC guidelines for vaccinated people, meaning they can stop wearing masks and socially distance.

Masks in New York will still be required in some public areas such as public transport, nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, schools, and healthcare facilities.

Meanwhile, California will keep its mandate in place until 15 June to give their residents time to prepare and to make sure that Covid-19 cases remain low.

California State Health Director Dr Mark Ghaly said on Monday: “This four week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change, while we continue the relentless focus on delivering vaccines particularly to underserved communities and those that were hard hit throughout this pandemic.”

California governor Gavin Newsom has previously said that if cases stay low, the state will abandon almost all restrictions on 15 June. The rules in California say that people who have been fully vaccinated don’t need to be masked when they are outside unless they are at a crowded gathering. But the rules also state that they must still wear masks inside unless they are with others who also have been fully vaccinated.

In New York, the new guidance will be adopted on Wednesday. Immunocompromised and unvaccinated people should continue wearing masks and follow social distancing guidelines, in accordance with advice from the CDC.

Individual establishments in New York will still be allowed to impose additional requirements of their own.

This means that the statewide executive order on masks that has been in place since April 2020 will come to an end.

“We have to reopen. We have to reopen smart, with a cautious eye. We have to get back to life and living and we have to do it the way New Yorkers do it,” governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. “Unvaccinated people should continue to wear a mask and social distance, but if you are vaccinated you are safe – no masks, no social distancing.”

The announcement from Mr Cuomo comes four days after the CDC put out new guidelines telling fully vaccinated people that they could forego masks, including indoors in most cases.

The number of businesses making similar changes is growing. Target and Starbucks have announced that unless mandated by state law, fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in their stores.

New York state’s mask order, which will expire on Wednesday, required everyone over the age of two to wear a mask when in public or when social distancing is not possible.

When the order was put in place over a year ago, New York was recording around 800 Covid deaths a day.

The daily number of deaths is now often in the 20s. Mr Cuomo said the number fell to 11 on Monday, the lowest number since 30 October, the governor added.

Hospitalisations have dropped 60 per cent in the last month and are at their lowest point since November. More than half of the adults in the state are now vaccinated.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said on Monday about the new CDC advice: “I like the guidance. I think it makes sense. Folks who are vaccinated are going to have more freedom.”

Social distancing remains a requirement at establishments attended by unvaccinated people. To limit the social distancing cap on attendees, several sports teams such as the Yankees, Mets and Islanders, have created sections of their stadiums solely for the use of vaccinated fans.

More than 50 per cent of seats at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center will be allocated to those who have been vaccinated as the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets head into the NBA playoffs.

Mr Cuomo said the New York City Marathon would return on 7 October at 60 per cent capacity.

“The whole point of the CDC’s change, the whole point of our change, is to say to people, ‘There are benefits to being vaccinated,’” the governor said.

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