New Yorkers who can’t keep at least 6 feet away from others in public must now wear masks or other face-coverings amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new edict issued Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The mandate came hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio instructed shoppers to cover their faces when picking up groceries ? and two weeks after transit unions pitched a similar proposal.
“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 cloth covering your nose and mouth,” Cuomo said during a press conference in Albany. “You don’t have the right to infect me.”
The governor, specifically mentioning public transportation and city sidewalks, gave New Yorkers “three-day notice” before local authorities will begin enforcing the order. However, he noted, while there won’t be penalties for those caught bare-faced, civil penalties could come into play.
“By the way, people will enforce it,” Cuomo added. “They’ll say to you, if they’re standing next to you on a street corner, ‘Where’s your mask, buddy?’ in a nice, New York kind of way.”
Back on April 2, Transport Workers Union Local 100 urged the MTA to strongly recommend riders cover their noses and mouths with bandanas or scarfs while riding trains or buses.
“This is a common-sense move that will prevent the spread of the virus and could ease the concerns of both transit workers and riders,” TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano said.
That same day, de Blasio urged New Yorkers to cover their faces whenever outside.
Cuomo didn’t back the move at the time, saying he thought it would give the general public “a false sense of security.”
MTA chairman and CEO Pat Foye said starting Friday “all customers will be required to wear a face-covering while traveling with us during this pandemic.”
The mask mandate comes as New York’s coronavirus “curve” continues to flatten thanks to decreases in the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions. However, Cuomo noted, the state lost another 752 people to the virus on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to a total of 11,586.
“The painful news of our reality day after day,” Cuomo said, noting that the death rate has remained between 700 and 800 a day for the past week. “But you see the terrible news, it’s basically been flat over the past several days.”
He added, “You see a flattening of the curve.”
Late Tuesday, the New York City Health Department released a harrowing “revised” death toll that included victims who were presumed to have died from COVID-19 without testing positive for it.
Under that toll, 10,899 people have died in the five boroughs alone — a shocking tally that Cuomo said would soon be reflected in the state statistics as localities get on board with new Centers for Disease Control guidelines calling for “probable” coronavirus-related deaths to be included.
An estimated 29,741 people battling the virus remain hospitalized in the city.
Both Cuomo and de Blasio said this week that they believe the state’s strict social distancing and stay-at-home orders that have shuttered schools and businesses are stemming the spread of the deadly disease.
“Cuomo is right,” said Toni Palmarini, 48, an office manager from Ridgewood, Queens, who wore a mask, gloves and carried hand sanitizer as she enjoyed a walk with her kids. “You could be asymptomatic and still be spreading it.”
“It should have been mandatory from the very beginning,” she added. “We don’t have a cure yet.”
Miguel Ruiz, a doorman in Manhattan said the order was overkill.
“If you keep your distance from people everybody will be all right,” he said as he walked his dog sans mask or gloves.
“I just don’t see the need,” the 48-year-old added. “It feeds into the fear people are already feeling.”
For Grace Choi, 52, who runs a juice and salad bar in Brooklyn, requiring masks in public is a no-brainer.
“It’s a very good idea. Everybody has got to be careful,” Choi said.
The shop worker said she already requires all her customers to wear masks when they walk through the door.
“If you don’t have a mask in my store, you have to come back,” Choi said.
De Blasio said Wednesday before Cuomo announced his order that food stores have the right to refuse entry to anyone who isn’t covering their face and that NYPD will help them enforce the requirement if necessary.
He told stores to put up signs telling shoppers they can’t come inside without face coverings.
“This will help everyone to remember, when they’re in that kind of space, it’s so important to protect each other,” de Blasio said. “Any customer who says no, I refuse, should not be allowed in…the city of New York will back you up.”
© 2020 New York Daily News
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.