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Mask mandates to be lifted for vaccinated people in most settings in New York State starting Wednesday

COVID-19 mask generic
Posted at 11:53 AM, May 17, 2021

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Following updated guidance issued by the CDC on Thursday, New York State is lifting mask requirements in most situations starting Wednesday

Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement during a COVID-19 briefing on Monday morning.

Under new state rules, people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can go maskless in most settings, as mentioned in the CDC guidance issued last Thursday. Anyone who is fully vaccinated will no longer need face coverings indoors or outdoors.

There are exceptions, where masks will still be required:

  • public transportation
  • nursing homes
  • homeless shelters
  • correctional facilities
  • Pre-K to 12 schools
  • health care facilities

Individual businesses can still require masks on their property.

Anyone who is unvaccinated or immunocompromised must continue to wear a mask and socially distance.

"Fully vaccinated" is defined as having received either the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, at least two weeks ago.

The state says in accordance with the new CDC guidance, the following guidelines will go into place May 19 in NYS:

Business Mask Rules

Given that the CDC has advised that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks and over 52 percent of New Yorkers over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated, the State will authorize businesses to continue to require masks for all in their establishments, consistent with the CDC guidance. In most settings, vaccinated individuals will not be required to wear a mask. Unvaccinated individuals, under both CDC and state guidance must wear masks in all public settings.

The Department of Health strongly recommends masks in indoor settings where vaccination status of individuals is unknown. Mask requirements by businesses must adhere to all applicable federal and state laws and regulations.

This recommendation will apply across commercial settings, including retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services, among other settings.

Business Capacity Rules

As previously announced [governor.ny.gov], most business capacities — which are currently based upon percentage of maximum occupancy — will be removed on May 19. Businesses will only be limited by the space available for patrons or parties of patrons to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet.

However, given that the CDC has advised that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to maintain social distance, businesses may eliminate the 6 feet of required social distancing, and therefore increase capacity, only if all patrons within the establishment -- or a separate designated part of the establishment -- present proof of full vaccination status. Proof of full vaccination status can be provided by patrons through paper form, digital application, or the State's Excelsior Pass [covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov].

For areas where vaccination status of individuals is unknown and for patrons who do not present proof of full vaccination status, the required social distance of 6 feet still applies until more New Yorkers are fully vaccinated. This change will apply across all commercial settings, except the exempt settings outlined by the CDC.

Small- and Large-Scale Event Rules

Small-scale events will be able to apply the revised business mask and capacity rules. Specifically, for events below the State's social gathering limit of 250 indoors or 500 outdoors, event venues will be able to require masks for all patrons -- and DOH strongly recommends masks in indoor settings where vaccination status is unknown -- and social distancing of 6 feet will be required between parties of attendees, unless all attendees present proof of full vaccination status. Unvaccinated people should still wear masks.

For large-scale events that exceed the State's social gathering limits, event venues will only be limited by the space available for patrons or parties of patrons to maintain the required distance, as follows:

  • Unvaccinated attendees and attendees who have an unknown vaccination status must be spaced 6 feet apart in assigned sections. Masks will be required in indoor event settings, except while seated and eating or drinking.
  • Fully vaccinated attendees may be spaced directly next to one another at 100 percent capacity instead of 6 feet apart in assigned sections that are designated solely for fully vaccinated individuals. Masks are optional. Venues must verify vaccination status to take advantage of reduced social distancing requirements.
    • Children under the age of 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible, and under the age of 16 who have not yet been able to be vaccinated, may accompany and be seated with a vaccinated adult in a fully vaccinated section.

For large-scale events, proof of recent negative COVID-19 test result for attendees who are over the age of four remains required for unvaccinated attendees in indoor event settings above the State's social gathering limit but will become optional in outdoor event settings.