Mask On, Mask Off? Explaining NY's New Rules For The Fully-Vaccinated


Wednesday, May 19, marked a major step in the COVID-pandemic reopening process in the Tri-State area as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut withdrew a range of restrictions limiting public gatherings and economic activity.

New York and Connecticut both added that they would modify their mask rules in accordance with a new set of federal guidelines released last week by the Centers for Disease Control.

New Jersey is keeping its mask requirement in place for the time-being.

The most significant new guideline says that fully-vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most public places. But there are enough situations in which masks are still required, that it's a good idea to keep one handy, regardless of your vaccination status.

Below are answers to some common questions about the new rules.

Where are masks still required for the fully-vaccinated? Masks are still required in...

  • Public transit settings
  • Healthcare settings
  • Homeless shelters
  • Jails
  • ANY private business that still requires them
  • New Jersey

Businesses in NY and CT still have the latitude to set their own mask rules. Since the policing of mask-wearing is a job nobody wants, it's best to keep a lookout for signs regarding a building's mask rules so you're not being a jerk when you're going about your business. Keep your mask with you in case you're asked to put it on.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reasoned during a news conference Monday that it's "unfair" to burden frontline workers with checking vaccination status and, thus, New Jerseyans should keep their masks on whenever they're indoors in a public place until further notice.

If businesses can set their own mask rules, what does the health department recommend?

When in doubt, mask up.

The New York State health department "strongly recommends" the use of masks indoors whenever the vaccination status of all people present is unknown. Though it's up to individual venues to decide how to handle these situations, the state recommends keeping masks on indoors.

Can businesses open at full capacity?

Businesses can only open at full capacity as long as full capacity allows for at least 6 feet social distancing between parties, if all parties' vaccination status is not known.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are no longer imposing general capacity limits in most venues; businesses are free to open as much as their dimensions allow people to keep six feet of distance between them.

If a venue wants to open a section for fully-vaccinated people only, the social distancing rules do not apply — capacity of such a section would be up to whatever the local fire inspector allows.

How are businesses going to verify vaccination status?

So far, it's up to businesses to decide how to verify vaccination status, if they choose to ask the question at all. It will likely work on the honor system.

People can show their paper vaccination card or New Yorkers can use the state's secure Excelsior Pass mobile app. More guidance on proof of vaccination is expected to come soon.

Radio City Music Hall plans to open next month at full capacity exclusively to fully-vaccinated theatergoers. Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. CEO James Dolan said Monday that his company will be working with the state to "figure out a way for it to happen."

When is someone considered "fully-vaccinated"? People are fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series (such as the Pfizer or Moderna shots) or two weeks after receiving their dose of a single shot vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson shot.

What's the deal with people who are within two weeks of their last vaccine dose?

Experts say it takes about two weeks from the second dose of a vaccine series or from the single-shot vaccines for the body to build up immunity to COVID-19.

The rules for partially vaccinated people are the same as for unvaccinated people. If you are in a public place and not able to stay at least six feet away from other people, you should wear your mask.

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Go here to find a COVID-19 vaccine near you.

Photo: Getty Images


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