All New Yorkers who leave their home must now wear cloth facial covering, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) ordered on Wednesday afternoon.
While the Centers for Disease Control began officially recommending the practice on April 3, Cuomo’s decision makes New York one of the first states to legally require nearly all of its residents to do so.
The measure mandates that people wear face coverings in public settings where maintaining six-feet of social distancing is difficult, such as public transportation, parks, grocery stores or pharmacies.
While fines will not currently be assessed for violations, Cuomo said at his daily Albany news conference, he did not rule it out should there be “widespread noncompliance.” The order, which will be enforced by local governments, goes into effect on Saturday.
Acceptable facial coverings can be fashioned at-home from bandanas, scarfs, cotton t-shirts or tightly woven fabric. According to the CDC, they should include “multiple layers of fabric” and “fit snugly” to one’s face.
Public officials, however, have stressed that N-95 or surgical masks — key tools for protecting frontline healthcare workers — are not recommended for the general public.
The order comes as New York, alongside a coalition of five other Northeast states, contemplates plans for eventually reopening parts of its economy.
“Where we’re going, it’s not a reopening in that we’re going to reopen what was. We’re going to a different place,” Cuomo said, cautioning that even if some restrictions are lifted in coming months, others — like face coverings — are likely here to stay.
While the state has reported a slowdown in hospitalizations — giving hope that efforts to “flatten the curve” may be paying off — over 700 coronavirus deaths were reported on Tuesday alone, pushing New York well past a grim milestone of 10,000 total fatalities.
“If you are going to be in a situation, in public, where you come into contact with other people in a situation that is not socially distanced, you must have a mask or a cloth covering nose and mouth,” the governor said.
According to the CDC, while wearing a homemade mask may not protect oneself from contracting COVID-19, it is thought that it prevents an infected individual from releasing contaminated particles into the air.