New York to Let Vaccinated People Ditch Masks

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo holds a protective mask as he speaks while making an announcement at a news conference from the stage at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan in New York City, Monday. (Reuters/Mike Segar)

Vaccinated New Yorkers can let go of pandemic restrictions like wearing masks or social distancing and “get back to life,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday as he announced a spate of moves heralding the state’s reopening.

“If you are vaccinated, you are safe,” Cuomo said, speaking from Radio City Music Hall’s auditorium.

After a delay of several days, Cuomo said the state is adopting new guidance on masks that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week.

Unvaccinated and immunocompromised people must continue to wear a mask and maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing, but people who have waited two weeks after completing their inoculation series no longer have to do either, starting Wednesday.

Masks will still be required for everyone in certain settings, like schools and nursing homes.

Cuomo said it’s up to businesses and venues to decide how to check someone’s vaccination status. He said he expects customers will ask business owners whether they’ve checked whether other patrons are vaccinated.

“They can check, they can ask at the door, they can ask when you are seated at the table, or not,” Cuomo said. “There is no mandatory compliance that the state is imposing on the private vendors.”

New cases of the virus have been plummeting statewide in recent weeks: New York reported about 12,500 people tested positive over the last seven days, down 78% from nearly 57,500 in the last week in March.

Cuomo said that starting Wednesday, venues can open up to 100% capacity, as long as they only allow vaccinated people inside.

New York has fully vaccinated about 43% of its 20 million residents, with rates as high as 66% in Hamilton County in central New York and as low as 27.5% in Allegany County in western New York and 30.5% in the Bronx.

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