New York’s Mask Mandate to Stay, Pending Review of New CDC Guidance: Cuomo

CDC's new guidance says those fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks
May 14, 2021 Updated: May 14, 2021

New York’s mask mandate will remain in place until health officials have reviewed new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) allowing for vaccinated people to discard face coverings under most conditions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday.

The governor’s comments came after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced updated guidance during a White House briefing earlier in the day.

Cuomo said in a statement that he and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker had not yet decided if New York would adopt the new guidelines, which would remove the need for masks or social distancing for fully vaccinated Americans.

“In New York, we have always relied on the facts and the science to guide us throughout the worst of this pandemic and in our successful reopening,” Cuomo said.

“We have received the newly revised guidance from the CDC regarding mask wearing and social distancing for those with vaccinations and are reviewing them in consultation with Dr. Zucker and our partners and health experts in surrounding states.”

The administration of Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also issued similar comments on Thursday, saying the state will be reviewing the CDC guidance.

Under the new guidance, fully vaccinated Americans are no longer being asked to wear masks or physically distance in any setting except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

However, fully vaccinated individuals should still wear face masks and practice social distancing on public transportation services like buses, trains, and airplanes, as well as in hospitals, homeless shelters, and prisons, according to the CDC.

Walensky said on Thursday: “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities—large or small—without wearing a mask or physically distancing.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” she added.

Rochelle Walensky
Rochelle Walensky, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on May 11, 2021. (Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)

A person is considered fully vaccinated against the coronavirus two weeks after getting the second Pfizer or Moderna shot or 14 days after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

During Thursday’s briefing, Walensky did, however, note that the CDC guidance might change in the future if the situation with COVID-19 were to worsen.

“The past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse, there is always a chance we may need to make a change to these recommendations,” the director said.

She warned that people who are immune compromised should also speak with their doctors before giving up their masks.

Despite the updated CDC guidance, one of the nation’s largest supermarket chains, Kroger, on Thursday announced that it will continue to require that everyone in its stores wear masks.

The decision came after Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said Ohio will lift its mask mandate in response to the new CDC guidance, along with all other remaining COVID-19 health orders, except those for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

A spokesperson for Kroger said that the company it will continue to review current safety practices and the CDC guidance to guide the next phase of its policy regarding masks and social distancing.

“Additionally, we continue to encourage everyone to practice social distancing and frequent hand washing as well as consider the use of no-touch grocery delivery or low-contact grocery pickup,” the spokesperson added.