Mask or no mask?
It’s a question New Yorkers are asking forcefully after Governor Kathy Hochul rescinded her statewide “mask or vax” requirement earlier this week, but allowed local municipalities to set their own rules.
Hochul’s Dec. 10 mandate, seen as an emergency response to a crush of COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant, had required customers and workers to mask up in most indoor settings, including grocery stores, offices and stores.
She rescinded that mandate on Wednesday, though she added that “counties, cities and businesses” can make their own decisions about vaccination and mask requirements going forward.
The order has caused confusion in the Big Apple.
Here’s everything we know about masking in New York.
Where are masks still mandatory?
Masks should always be worn on public transportation, including taxis, and in congregate care settings such as nursing homes, correctional facilities and homeless shelters, regardless of vaccination status of somebody.
Face coverings should also be worn in healthcare facilities and schools.
Federal rules still require masks at airports, train stations and other transportation hubs as well — at least until March 18, when the order is due to expire.
Private establishments such as restaurants, museums, gyms and entertainment centers may also require patrons and workers to wear face coverings. Currently, only vaccinated people are allowed in these places and therefore may still be required to wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status. For example, audience members must still be vaccinated and wear masks when attending Broadway shows until at least April 30, according to the Broadway League.
Where are masks not mandatory?
New Yorkers are now free to throw away their face coverings in general indoor environments such as offices, stores, grocery stores and common areas of apartment buildings if the respective company allows it. They do not need to be vaccinated to enter these places.
Meanwhile, vaccinated New Yorkers, who are allowed into gyms, indoor restaurants and entertainment centers, may be allowed to go mask-free depending on each company’s respective policies.
But what about the obligation to vaccinate?
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s controversial ordinance requiring indoor restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination is still in effect. The term was recently renewed by Mayor Eric Adams.
Unvaccinated New Yorkers can still eat at outdoor dining establishments if the company permits.