NEW YORK — As of Tuesday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control officially declared that as long as a person is fully vaccinated and is outdoors, and not in crowded conditions, they don’t have to wear a mask.
However, with New York City being the country’s most densely populated metropolis, the no-mask rule has a unique application around here.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said as much, in his daily briefing on Tuesday and so did a variety of everyday New Yorkers
“I’d still wear one,” Linda Davis Valdez, an office worker in Downtown Brooklyn, said. “I just think it’s about safety and responsibility,” she continued, adding, “I mean, what’s the big deal about putting a mask on?”
She said that she wouldn’t be surprised if mask wearing at all times in public becomes more common for her and for many of her fellow New Yorkers, going forward.
One of those fellow New Yorkers was Brooklyn resident Jemelle Denny. He double masks, and said that it would take a significant change in the overall coronavirus situation for him to change his habits.
“When the city says that at least 75 to 85% of the people have been vaccinated,” Denny said, “then I’ll feel a little bit more comfortable. But as for right now, no.”
He said that because some people refuse to get vaccinated, he feels that it’s best to stay masked. He was wearing an N95 medical grade mask, as well as a cloth surgical mask.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of people that PIX11 News encountered in Downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday were wearing masks, unless they were eating, drinking, or smoking.
The one exception was Scott Ackerman, who lives in Orange County, New York, but had business in Downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday.
“I have a little bit of background in biology, medicine and medical microbiology,” he said, “so I know it’s safe to do that, especially if you’re vaccinated.”
Ackerman said that he always carries an N95 mask, and wears it almost all of the time.
“Not as much outdoors,” he said, “just because as long as I’m socially distanced from people, I feel safe that way.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, at his Tuesday morning press briefing, acknowledged that New York City is unique regarding the mask mandate changes, because it has a higher population density than any other U.S. city. De Blasio and the medical leaders at the briefing said that they don’t plan on changing much of their own habits — they intend to continue wearing masks most of the time outdoors, and in.
De Blasio also said that he doesn’t intend to alter the city’s official messaging.
“People here learned through the pain we went through [during the pandemic], to be smart, to be cautious. We want to keep that instinct alive,” said the mayor. “We’re certainly going to remind people its still great to wear a mask, whenever you can, including outdoors.”
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had an announcement of his own which makes vaccination even easier, statewide.
“We’re going to open up all state mass vaccination sites this Thursday to just walk-in vaccinations,” the governor said, at a photo op at a vaccination site in Johnson City, near Binghamton. “You don’t have to call, you don’t have to make an appointment,” Cuomo added.
It means that at state vaccination sites like Yankee Stadium, or the Javits Center, people can now do what they’ve been able to do at city-run sites since last Friday: just walk in and get a vaccine dose.
The importance of doing so was underscored on Tuesday afternoon by the nation’s top infectious disease specialist — himself a native New Yorker. Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed out, at the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, that the vaccines that are approved in the U.S. are effective against variants, including the one that’s been found locally.
“The 526 [variant], which was originally the New York [strain], and spreading in certain areas in the New York metropolitan area,” Fauci said, “has been shown in clinical studies to be neutralized by antibodies that the vaccines form. This is still within the cushion that you would see protected.”
Correction: The CDC’s guidance on crowded conditions has been updated.