New Yorkers who have been vaccinated for Covid-19 were officially allowed to ditch their masks in most outdoor—and many indoor—settings on Wednesday, as the state lifted many virus-related restrictions on businesses that have been in effect for more than a year.
The step toward pre-pandemic normalcy, on a day bright with sunny spring weather, brought a measure of relief to many New Yorkers.
“I’m happy I don’t have to wear my mask on the street anymore but I’m going to keep it in my toolbox,” said Susan Hemley, a 44-year-old costume designer who was shopping in Brooklyn Wednesday morning. She said she still wears a mask inside stores, and puts one on outside if someone is coughing.
Ms. Hemley said she thinks guidance from authorities is clear, though some others find it confusing: “If someone asks you to wear a mask, put it on,” she said. In her view, masks make sense in doctors’ offices or during flu season, even without a pandemic, but she said she won’t rejoin her gym because it is too hard to wear a mask there. “I have a hard enough time doing my reps as it is,” she said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo
said Monday that New York would follow the revised guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance indoors or outdoors, with some exceptions. The governor said individual businesses could still screen customers for vaccination or continue to require masks for all.
About 53% of New York residents ages 18 and older were fully vaccinated, state officials said Tuesday. By state data, 42,503 New Yorkers have died of Covid-19.
Some city leaders still appealed for caution. Councilmember
a Democrat from Manhattan running for borough president, asked stores, gyms and salons to require masks of all customers to protect their workers, those with compromised immune systems and children. The “alternative of requiring masks only for vax’d cases on the honor system will not work,” he said in a
post on Wednesday.
For Ron Silver, the owner of Bubby’s, a popular all-day dining spot in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, the first day of 100% capacity for indoor dining marked the end of a long, tough year.
“It feels like spring break after a prison sentence,” said Mr. Silver, who said his business declined by 70% in 2020. More significantly, he said, his restaurant was mourning a chef who died from Covid-19.
Mr. Silver wasn’t really able to take full advantage of the relaxing of restrictions, however, because the dozens of patrons who came to the restaurant were opting to eat outside in the fine weather.
Some of those customers were blissfully unaware of the easing of rules Wednesday, but they were quick to note that it seems as if the city has become increasingly active in recent weeks, especially with so many New Yorkers being fully vaccinated.
“People are hugging each other in the streets,” said Erin Kuntz, a 42-year-old Manhattan resident, as she finished her breakfast.
Taher Behbehani, a Maryland resident who comes to New York City frequently on business, struck a slightly less optimistic note as he dined at Bubby’s. While the city may be getting busier, he also pointed to the fact that many stores have closed during the past year and the homeless problem appears to have gotten worse.
“You can see scars” of the pandemic, he said.
store on the Upper West Side had a big sign in a window saying “If you are fully vaccinated, facial coverings are optional.” Even so, during one short visit on Wednesday morning, most customers wore masks. A company spokesman said it was following CDC guidance, and so made masks optional for vaccinated customers, unless local regulations require them.
The state lifted capacity limits for most businesses starting Wednesday, but said that they must enable 6 feet of social distancing between patrons or parties if it is unclear who is fully vaccinated. Restaurants, for example, can drop the 6-feet rule if all customers show proof they are vaccinated, or use a designated section.
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Unvaccinated people, under both federal and state guidance, must wear masks in all public settings.
The state Department of Health strongly recommends masks in indoor settings where the vaccination status of other people is unknown.
Schools, public transit, correctional facilities, nursing homes and healthcare settings will continue to require masks until more New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, state officials said.
Mr. Cuomo said Wednesday that the day marked a milestone 399 days after New York imposed a mask mandate, and more than 10 million New Yorkers had at least one vaccine dose. “The steps we’re taking today don’t mean that Covid has been officially relegated to the history books,” he said. “We need to stay vigilant, continue to follow the safety guidelines in place, and help every single eligible New Yorker get vaccinated, so that we can finally reach that light at the end of the tunnel.”
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Source: WSJ – US News