Governor Cuomo Announces NY State To Adopt New CDC Guidance From Harlem To Hollis

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that beginning May 19, 2021, NY State will adopt the CDC’s “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People” for most business and public settings.

Consistent with the CDC guidance, Pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare settings will continue to follow State’s existing COVID-19 health guidelines until more New Yorkers are fully vaccinated.

“New Yorkers have worked hard over the last year to prevent the spread of COVID and keep each other safe,” Governor Cuomo said. “That work has paid off and we are ecstatic to take this next step in the reopening of our beautiful state. The people of New York and visitors alike should take solace in the lifting of mask requirements, but be respectful of those who may still feel safest wearing their mask in public and business owners who may still ask patrons to don their mask. We are ever closer to our better, safer New York. We are New York tough and we have proven it.”


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To implement the CDC’s guidance, New York State will be revising the following reopening guidelines to take effect on May 19:

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.

Additional details on the State’s New York Forward reopening guidance updates will be available here.

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