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Mask mandate remains in NY as governor reviews CDC guidance

May 14, 2021 GMT

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to say whether he will change his state’s mask or social distancing rules in light of new federal guidance that eases rules for fully vaccinated people.

Cuomo said Thursday that his administration is reviewing the new federal guidance and consulting with health officials in neighboring states. His office said there was no immediate update Friday.

New York’s mask mandate dates to April 2020, when the Democratic governor first required all people in New York over the age of 2 to wear a mask when out in public or unable to distance themselves from others.

At the time, health officials across the nation urged mask mandates as it became clear that people without symptoms could unknowingly spread COVID-19. Cuomo has since pointed to research showing that crowded indoor settings like dining pose a higher risk of COVID-19 spread.

In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday his state’s mask mandate will remain in place.

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Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that unvaccinated people will still have to wear a mask indoors. And in line with the new federal guidance, the Democratic governor said businesses can choose to require mask-wearing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people Thursday still to wear masks in crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.

But the new federal guidance says fully vaccinated people can forgo masks in most indoor settings and no longer need to physically distance from others.

The leader of an industry group advocating for restaurant and bars owners in New York City is calling on Cuomo to lift more restrictions.

“It’s more justification to continue eliminating restaurant and nightlife restrictions, so that these businesses which are vital to the city’s social and economic fabric can reopen further, welcome back customers and help the Big Apple recover,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement.

Business owners are awaiting to see whether the new federal rules will affect Cuomo’s plan to lift some COVID-19 restrictions next week.

Starting May 19, most businesses in New York will no longer have to limit the number of people allowed inside based on a percentage of their typical capacity, the governor announced last week.

Instead, Cuomo said businesses would have to adhere to a new limit: how many people can be inside at once while leaving enough room for 6 feet (2 meters) of physical distancing among patrons and workers.

Cuomo said that could change if the CDC lifts its physical distancing guidance.

The governor has said in recent weeks that mask and distancing rules can help reduce COVID-19 spread as the state pushes to vaccinate more residents.

New York has fully vaccinated 41.2% of 20 million residents, according to CDC data as of Thursday, while 50.9% of residents have at least one dose.

Vaccination rates are lower in rural, less populated counties in western and central New York: about one-third of residents have at least a first done in Allegany County, according to state data.

Rates are also lower in denser communities in downstate New York: 38% of people in the Bronx have at least one dose, compared to 42% in Brooklyn and 41% in Orange County.

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Associated Press writer Mike Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.