New York lifts COVID-19 mask requirements for vaccinated people

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New York state will no longer require masks in most public spaces for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Wednesday, adopting new federal health guidance, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

Masks will still be required on public transit, in schools and some other communal settings, even among the vaccinated, the governor said. He said private businesses can impose their own masking rules on customers and staff.

“Unvaccinated people should continue to wear a mask,” the governor said.

The announcement, made in New York City, once the pandemic’s U.S. epicenter, came as part of a wave of news about the city’s reopening. For instance, the New York City Marathon will be held in November at 60 percent capacity.

With 52.2 percent of New York adults fully inoculated and 61.8 percent protected by at least one dose of the vaccine, Cuomo said state health officials reviewed unmasking guidance issued last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ultimately agreed with it.

Every venue will determine its own process for checking vaccination status, said Cuomo at a news conference at Radio City Music Hall, which will host closing night of the Tribeca Festival, an annual city cultural event, on June 19 for a 100 percent vaccinated, mask-free audience.

“I’m sure when people are coming into Radio City Music Hall, they are going to ask, ‘I’m sitting next to someone. I don’t know who they are. Are you sure they were vaccinated?'” the governor said. “That’s why it’s on the operator’s best interest to say ‘Yes! They had a card and they were checked when they walked in the door.'”

Cuomo said he expected that after the May 19 rule change, many New Yorkers will decide on their own to keep wearing masks in the interests of safety and public health.

“I expect there are going to be a lot of people who are not just going to flip a switch and be over this. I think there is going to be lingering concern,” Cuomo said.

“They are going to say ‘I’m going to process it myself and you know what? I think I’m going to keep wearing a mask. Because I’m not 100 percent sure about this,'” Cuomo said, making a $10 bet with reporters. “I will wager you that on your walk to work, at least 40 percent of people will be wearing masks.” (Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Barbara Goldberg; editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)

Reuters