‘We’re saying let’s open’: New York adopts CDC guidance to ease mask restrictions

New York will adopt the updated guidance on masks and social distancing announced last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the updated guidance goes into effect Wednesday, nearly a week after the CDC said fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask in most settings, whether indoors or outdoors, or practice social distancing. The CDC decision last week led to some confusion locally since New York’s mask mandate remained in effect.

That will now change as New York prepares for its “major reopening” this week that the governor had previously announced.

The CDC guidelines will be posted at Masks are still required on public transportation, nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, schools and health care facilities, the governor said.

Unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks and anyone who is immunocompromised should consult their health care provider. Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson.

“We have to reopen smart,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We have to reopen with a cautious eye. But we have to get back to life and living and we have to do it the way New Yorkers do it. We have to do it quickly and robustly.”

A mask mandate in New York has been in effect for over a year now. Following the CDC announcement, the governor said last Thursday that the state would be reviewing the guidance with health commissioner Howard Zucker, M.D. “and our partners and health experts in surrounding states.”

Mr. Cuomo on Monday said the change in mask guidelines is a “radical adjustment of rules.”

“It was radical when the CDC put it out, frankly, last week and caught people by surprise,” he said. “So we took a couple of days to analyze what it would be. We aligned it with our guidance.”

The governor said he expects some people would still be more comfortable wearing masks.

“I expect there will be a lot of people not just going to flip a switch and be over this,” he said.

Further restrictions are scheduled to be lifted this week. Capacity restrictions are lifted for restaurants, retail and offices — as much as six-foot distancing can be maintained. An outdoor food and beverage curfew is lifted today and the indoor curfew is lifted May 31.

The decision announced Monday will offer a clearer picture for businesses trying to navigate how to proceed as the summer season approaches.

“Individual private venues still have the ability to add additional guidelines to the state guidelines and the CDC guidelines,” Mr. Cuomo said. “But for our part, we’re adopting the CDC and we’re saying let’s open.”

County fairs can open to capacity for six-foot social distancing with local department of health permit. A state department of health approval is required for events with 5,000 or more attendees.

The numbers on COVID continue to trend in the right direction. The Suffolk County Department of Health reported a breakthrough Sunday with fewer than 100 new cases in the prior 24 hours. The seven-day positivity rate dropped to 1.0% in Suffolk County. There are 127 people hospitalized across the county. By comparison, one year ago to date there were 539 people hospitalized.

Statewide hospitalizations have declined for 46 straight days.

Mr. Cuomo cautioned that while the numbers are looking good, fatalities continue to be reported and serve as a reminder that COVID remains a threat. There were 11 fatalities in the state reported in the past 24 hours. There were two fatalities in the past 24 hours in the county, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 3,381.