A Guide to New York’s New Rules on Masks and Distancing


New York eased its mask and social distancing mandates again on Wednesday, but people shouldn’t be throwing their face coverings in the garbage just yet.

Masks are still required for everyone in many settings. Millions of unvaccinated New Yorkers still have to wear them in most public places. Private businesses can still set rules that exceed state requirements.

New York is following federal guidance recommending that masks still be worn by everyone, whether they are vaccinated or not, in elementary, middle and high schools, on public transit and in homeless shelters, jails, nursing homes and other healthcare settings.

Other than the places listed above, people who are fully vaccinated no longer have to wear masks either indoors or outdoors in most settings, the state says, except when specifically required by “federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

An individual is “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series, according to the CDC, or two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Individuals who have received the first of the two-shot regiment must still wear masks in most public settings. That includes both indoors — like in shops or at a workplace — or outdoors if they are unable to stay at least 6 feet away from other people.

There are exceptions, like when eating or drinking at a restaurant or for kids under age two.

Nobody is required to wear a mask in the privacy of their own home.

Individual businesses in New York can still mandate mask-wearing in their establishments, even for fully vaccinated people, if they wish. Or, they could require them only for the unvaccinated.

The state Department of Health still “strongly recommends” the use of masks indoors when the vaccination status of all the people present is unknown.

The governor said that it’s up to businesses and venues to decide how to check someone’s vaccination status, if they choose to do so.