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Governor Cuomo Orders All People To Wear Masks In Public In New York

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woman wearing a protective mask rides a subway on March 9, 2020 in New York City.
Jeenah Moon/Getty

New York is now the first state where people have been ordered to wear masks in public

In a news conference Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement that all people in the state are now ordered to wear masks or face coverings when they go into public. This is the first time people in any state have been ordered to wear masks, though as the coronavirus pandemic has developed, the CDC began recommending that people all over the U.S. do so (though President Donald Trump almost immediately said publicly that he would not).

New York’s executive order will take effect after a three-day grace period, Cuomo said. As of now, there are no fines that will be imposed for people who refuse to follow the order, but Cuomo said he’s not ruling that out as a possibility in the future. He also said the order is a move toward beginning to reopen the state, and a nod to how life on the other side of the coronavirus won’t look exactly the same as it did before.

“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,” he said. “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.”

New York has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with nearly a third of the nation’s total 600,000 cases. There are still roughly 2,000 new cases being confirmed in the state every day, according to Cuomo, but also some hopeful signs that the curve is starting to flatten there as new infections, hospitalizations, and serious cases begin to level off.

Despite that, though, Cuomo warned in his address that the crisis is far from over.

“It’s over when people know I’m 100% safe and I don’t have to worry about this. When does that happen? When we have a vaccine?” he said. “Until you have a vaccine, until you have the medical treatment, what do you do? How are you building the bridge? Well, it’s going to be a phased reopening.”

Scientists have warned that we could need to practice social distancing intermittently until a vaccine is developed and made widely available, which could easily take years.

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