Questions swirl as NY prepares to lift mask mandate for fully vaccinated in most settings

Coronavirus

NEW YORK — New York will no longer have a mask-wearing requirement in most indoor and outdoor settings for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning Wednesday at midnight.

The change follows the CDC’s guidelines, issued late last week, that are meant to encourage more vaccinations. 

Even though just over half of New York adults are fully vaccinated, according to state records, the change in the rules has left some people with questions.  

Amma Siriboe was shopping on 125th Street in Harlem on Tuesday afternoon, and posed a question asked by many.

“How are you going to know people are vaccinated when they walk in the stores?” she asked.  

The answer is that people can show proof of vaccination with their vaccination card, or with New York State’s Excelsior Pass app. 

Such proof will be required for admission to seating sections at major venues, like stadiums and arenas. But to enter retail and other smaller stores that have ended their mask requirements, proof of vaccination isn’t required. 

Starbucks, Chipotle, Target, Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Costco and CVS are some of the companies with stores in New York that have dropped the requirement to wear masks indoors.  

Still, every person that PIX11 surveyed about their mask-wearing habits going forward gave comments similar to those made by Starbucks customer Ray Gainey. 

“If I’m in a crowded environment and I don’t know who’s vaccinated or not, I wear my mask,” he said after walking out of a Starbucks on 125th Street.

CVS customer Lawrence Dorsett, a chef in Harlem, said his mask is staying on when he’s indoors in a public space, at least for the foreseeable future.

“I have to protect myself,” he said, “because it’s a lot of customers I deal with, and I’m fixing [their] food.”

And some people said even though the masks can come off on Wednesday, they still plan to wear them.

Maricela Carmona, a registered nurse, gave another reason for keeping her mask on. She said she’s not willing to increase the risk of exposing her 10-year-old daughter, who’s not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

“You’ve got to protect your children,” said Carmona.

The updated mask guidance in New York State can be superseded by local orders.

When asked if the city might adopt its own mask requirement, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wouldn’t do so right now.

“We’re going to watch the data,” he said. “We want to keep pushing the numbers down … If we see something else, though, we’ll make adjustments.”

NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said his main concern is the spread of COVID among unvaccinated people indoors.

 “While I am fully vaccinated, I will be keeping my mask on indoor in almost all settings,” he added.

Even after the relaxed rules go into effect Wednesday, masks will still be required in New York on public transportation, and in nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, schools, and health care facilities. 

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