Citing a statewide uptick in positive coronavirus cases, city and state officials are recommending that New Yorkers once again wear masks in public indoor settings, regardless of their vaccination status.
“Today, I am making a strong recommendation that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in public indoor settings,” NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said at a press conference on Monday morning. “This is based on our review of the latest scientific evidence showing that the delta variant of the coronavirus can spread even more easily than previously thought.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio noted that it was “a better situation” if fully vaccinated people commingled in public settings with other vaccinated people, “but if you’re not sure, and that’s going to be many cases, we want to strongly recommend that people wear those masks indoors even if vaccinated,” de Blasio said.
The city did not implement a mask mandate, only a mask recommendation, because “we thought this was the right balance,” according to de Blasio. “The CDC recommended, and we are recommending. We are tracking the exact language from the CDC, just as Connecticut and New Jersey have done.”
In Connecticut, the state’s health department is now “strongly recommending” that all residents over the age of two start wearing masks indoors again, regardless of vaccination status, the New York Post reports. New Jersey officials put out a similar statement last week advocating that all residents wear masks indoors “when there is increased risk,” like in crowded public settings. Massachusetts updated its mask guidance on Friday to recommend that fully vaccinated people still wear masks indoors if they have a weakened immune system, among other higher-risk concerns.
NYC’s new recommendation is added to the city’s ongoing mask-wearing rules, including requiring all New Yorkers to wear masks in schools, hospitals, and public transit settings. Unvaccinated people continue to be required to wear masks in all indoor and outdoor public settings.
At a press conference on Monday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on business owners across the state to take it a step further and enact vaccine-only policies on their premises. “Private businesses, I am asking them and suggesting to them: Go to vaccine-only admission,” he said.
“A mask policy will be important, but I don’t believe that a mask policy is going to be enough,” Cuomo said. “I think we’re going to have to talk about a vaccination policy.” He suggested requiring mandatory vaccines for nursing home workers, teachers, and all public-facing healthcare workers if positive coronavirus numbers continue to rise. Starting on Labor Day, MTA and New York Port Authority employees will be required to get vaccinated or be tested weekly, Cuomo announced on Monday.
Mayor de Blasio similarly underscored the need to focus on vaccination, saying on Monday that, “we want to be clear, mask wearing is not a substitute for vaccination.” The mayor’s office announced last week that all city workers in NYC, roughly 340,000 people, must either get vaccinated by mid-September or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. Additionally, de Blasio said on Monday that all new city employees must show proof of vaccination before reporting to work. All adult Broadway theatergoers will need to show proof of vaccination and wear masks during performances, theater owners and operators announced on Friday.
Many restaurants have also been instating proof of vaccination requirements for diners over the past week, including Dame, Forsythia, Yellow Rose, and others. Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group unveiled a vaccine mandate for indoor diners in place starting in September, although unvaccinated diners could still dine outdoors. Wine bar Ruffian and sister restaurant Kindred in the East Village announced over the weekend that the establishments would be shutting down indoor dining altogether “until cases decrease at an appropriate level.”
As of July 30, the COVID-19 test positivity rate on a seven-day average in NYC was 2.97 percent, according to city data, marking a steady incline in case counts over the past month. The city’s safety threshold for NYC’s test positivity rate on a seven-day average is 5 percent. Among the tested cases in the past four weeks, 72 percent were found to be the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19.
More than 4.3 million adult NYC residents — roughly 66 percent of the total adult population — have been fully vaccinated as of July 30.