Gov. Cuomo: New York will adopt CDC guidelines on masking, distancing for fully vaccinated people

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NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a coronavirus briefing Monday from Radio Music City Hall in New York City where he announced new metrics, the state’s decision on CDC guidance change for masking, reopening updates, and more.

New numbers

The governor reported the following COVID-19 data:

  • 101,173 COVID-19 tests reported statewide Sunday
  • 1.26% positivity rate
  • 11 new deaths (lowest single day increase since October 30, 2020)
  • 1,581 hospitalizations (lowest since November 9, 2020)
  • 387 in ICU (lowest since November 14, 2020)
  • 228 intubated

The seven-day average positivity rates for each region are as follows:

  • Finger Lakes — 2.72%
  • North Country — 2%
  • Western New York — 1.86%
  • Central New York — 1.37%
  • Capital Region — 1.34%
  • Mohawk Valley — 1.37%
  • Mid-Hudson — 0.99%
  • Long Island — 0.98%
  • New York City — 0.91%
  • Southern Tier — 0.59%

“The positivity rate in January, after the holiday surge — remember we were close to 8%,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We’re now down to 1.1%. Hospitalizations: We were up near 9,000 hospitalizations in January, and now we’re down to 1,700 — which is the lowest since November 15. So all the arrows are heading in the right direction. We are managing COVID, we haven’t defeated COVID, but we are managing it well.”

The state’s vaccination progress, as of Monday, is as follows:

  • 17,262,145 total vaccine doses administered statewide
  • 9,973,197 New Yorkers with at least one dose, 61.8% of the state’s 18+ population
  • 8,338,677 New Yorkers fully vaccinated, 52.2% of the state’s 18+ population

“We’re going to find more creative ways to get people to take the vaccine because the more people who take the vaccine — it will get better,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Mask mandate

The governor said effective Wednesday, the state will adopt the new CDC guidance that eases mask requirements for fully vaccinated people.

The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated. The CDC will also no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds.

“If you are vaccinated, you are safe,” Gov. Cuomo said. “No masks, no social distancing.”

The governor said individual private venues still have the ability to add additional guidelines to existing state and federal guidance should they choose to do so.

“We took a couple of days to analyze what it would be,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We aligned it with our guidance, we’re announcing that today. We’re then giving vendors, local government notice today. It goes into effect Wednesday, so they have a day to make adjustments. I’m sure they’ll say it’s too fast, they need more than a day, but that’s where we are.”

The governor said he expects that many people will continue to wear masks even if they are fully vaccinated as people adapt to this next phase of the pandemic.

“Just because you say today ‘OK you don’t need this [mask]] anymore,'” Gov. Cuomo said. “This has gone beyond government rules and regulations. People have inculcated this into their psyche. I’ve had more people ask me ‘are you saying I can’t wear a mask anymore? Because I still want to wear a mask.’ I suspect there will be a lot of people who are not just going to flick a switch and be over this. I think there is going to be lingering concern. And I think you’ll see a lot of people wearing masks going forward, but it is up to the private vendor, or venue.”

There are some caveats in the new CDC guidance. Officials encouraged people who have weak immune systems, such as from organ transplants or cancer treatment, to talk with their doctors before shedding their masks. That’s because of continued uncertainty about whether the vaccines can rev up a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.

Masks will still be required on public transportation, in nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, schools, and health care facilities.

According to the CDC, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
    • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
    • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States.
    • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
    • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live or work in a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Reopening

Wednesday marks May 19 — the date the governor set for “major reopening” steps for New York state.

Effective Wednesday:

  • Most capacity restrictions lifted for restaurants, museums, retail, offices, etc.
  • Outdoor food and beverage curfew lifted Monday
  • Indoor food and beverage curfew lifts May 31
  • Outdoor gathering limit has increased to 500
  • Indoor gathering limit increased to 250
  • Indoor residential gathering limit increased to 50
  • 24-hour subway service restored in New York City

“What we do today really is going to define what tomorrow is all about,” Gov. Cuomo said. “At no other point, in my memory, where the future of the state was so dependent on the decisions and the actions that we take today. This post-COVID reality is going to be shaped and formed by what we do. This is happening all across the county, this is happening all across the globe — we’re reopening the world reopening economies.”

The governor said for the upcoming NBA playoffs, of which both the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets will be hosting games, that arenas will be able to apply the same rules recently put in place for baseball spectators, which splits up seating sections by groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated people, with less distancing restrictions for the vaccinated group.

“The rules on the playoffs, there will be a vaccinated section and an unvaccinated section,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I would go higher if I owned the teams. I encourage operators and venues to go higher than 50%. You can go to 100% vaccinated, that’s in a private operator’s control, and frankly from the state’s point of view, we want to encourage people to get vaccinated. yes there are health reasons, but we’re opening up with more opportunities for vaccinated people so it’s another reason to get vaccinated.”

The governor announced county fairs can resume planning for this summer.

“County fairs, a big part of this state, big part of Upstate New York., they are all allowed to open up to the capacity of six feet of social distance and the local department of health will issue a permit,” Gov. Cuomo said.

The governor also announced the return of the New York City Marathon, scheduled for November 7, 2021.

“The race isn’t until November, but it’s the 50th running and that can be adjusted between now and November because November is a long way away, but for now, the reopening registration is for 33,000 runners.”

The governor also announced that Radio City Music Hall would become a destination for vaccinated folks seeking entertainment, and that it would operate at 100% capacity, with no masking requirements.

“Having Radio City Music Hall back at 100% capacity without masks, with people enjoying New York and the New York arts,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s not only going to be symbolic and metamorphic, but I think it’s going to go a long way toward bringing back this state overall and we do want to say directly, 100% at Radio City Music Hall. ‘So if I’m not vaccinated, I can’t go?’ That’s right. The whole point of the CDC’s change, the whole point of our change is to say to people ‘there are benefits to being vaccinated.’ No. 1, if you get COVID, which there’s a fractional chance that you’ll get it if you’re vaccinated, you won’t get as sick. No. 2, you can’t transmit it to anyone. And No. 3, yes New York is opening, but you will have more opportunities if you are vaccinated.”

Joining the governor Monday was James Dolan, owner of the Knicks, executive chairman and CEO of Madison Square Garden Sports and Madison Square Garden Entertainment, and the executive chairman of MSG Network. Dolan said he was already starting to book concerts and shows for his venues this summer, and he encouraged all New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

“We’ve been missing our sixth man, but we’re getting our sixth man back for the playoffs,” Dolan said.

New York State Executive Bidget Direct Robert Mujica says New Yorkers can use electronic or paper options as proof of vaccination status and large venues.

“We will issue guidance for the large venues that outlines the requirements, but you have both of those options,” Mujica said. “One is more convenient than the other, but you can have paper or electronic. Right now there have been venues that have been operating where there’s an option of testing or proof of vaccination. Thousands and thousands have use the Excelsior Pass so that’s not new.”

Mujica said the verification process is secure and that only people compiled in the state’s vaccination database will be able to access an Excelsior Pass.

“The Excelsior Pass is very easy to get, they can check, they can ask at the door, they can ask when you’re seated at the table or not,” Gov. Cuomo said. “There is no mandatory compliance that the state is imposing on the private vendors. I will bet you this, I will bet you when you go to the restaurant and you’re sitting next to a person that has no mask, people are going to ask the restaurant owner ‘did you check to make sure this person is vaccinated?'”

From the governor’s office

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, 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.

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.
      • Proof of full vaccination status can be provided by attendees through paper form, digital application, or the State’s Excelsior Pass.

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.

Today’s announcement builds on Governor Cuomo’s recent measures to further reopen the economy given significant progress in vaccinations and sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. As of yesterday, 62 percent of New York’s adults had received at least one vaccine dose and 52 percent had completed their vaccine series. 

This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.

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