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New York to Lift Mask Mandate for Vaccinated People, With Some Exceptions
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo in May 2020.
Credit: Gov. Cuomo's Office

Following CDC, NY to Lift Mask Mandate for Vaccinated People

New Yorkers who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine will no longer have to wear masks in most situations starting Wednesday, the same day capacity restrictions are set to be lifted for most areas, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

That follows guidance released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which said vaccinated individuals are unlikely to spread the virus, meaning they can unmask if state law allows.

Masks will still be required for unvaccinated and immunocompromised people, Cuomo said.

And regardless of vaccination status, masks will also still be required on public transit and in nursing homes, homeless shelters, schools, health care facilities, and correctional facilities.

New York first required masks to be worn in public areas last spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic was still approaching its peak. At the time, hundreds of people were dying from the virus per day, and total hospitalizations were skyrocketing toward 18,000.

Now, new COVID-19 deaths in New York rarely exceed four dozen per day, and hospitalizations have dipped below 2,000 for the first time since last fall. Those indicators haven’t reached what was reported last summer, but they’re not far off.

At the same time, more than half of all eligible adults in New York have been fully vaccinated as of last week, with nearly eight million people now protected from the virus.

"There's probably no other point in my memory where the future of this state was so dependent on the decisions and the actions that we take today," Cuomo said.

The move to end the state's mask mandate marks a major shift in New York, where the COVID-19 pandemic killed more people than every other state except California.

Masks became a large part of the state’s COVID-19 strategy last year, when Cuomo first issued the mandate. That was in mid-April, about a month and a half after the first case was detected in New York.

They also became a point of division, with former President Donald Trump appearing to shy away from masks during the height of the pandemic in New York last year. Masks became both an issue of public health, and one in the political sphere.

The mask mandate will be lifted on the same day the state is scheduled to lift capacity limits at most businesses and venues, though social distancing of at least six feet will still be required at those places.

Vaccination status can be shown either with an individual's vaccine card, or through the Excelsior Pass smartphone application, which is available for both Apple and Android devices.

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