Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said he will sign an executive order requiring all New Yorkers to wear masks or face coverings in public when they are not maintaining social distancing. The order, which goes into effect Friday, will not be enforced with a civil penalty but may in the future.
"If you are going to be in a situation in public where you may 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," Cuomo said in his daily coronavirus briefing.
Cuomo said New Yorkers will not have to wear masks when they are in public and other people are not around. But in all situations where they will be near other people — including public transportation, shopping and even walking in busy neighborhoods — face coverings are required.
"[If] you're not going to be able to maintain social distancing, you must wear a mask or cloth or an attractive bandana or a color-coordinated bandana, but you have to wear it in those situations," Cuomo said.
The governor encouraged local governments to start enforcing the rule, saying the move is necessary to help stop the spread of coronavirus in New York, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak.
Cuomo's announcement comes hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city's supermarkets and grocery stores should require all customers to wear masks. He said stores will be allowed to deny entry to anyone not covering their face.
Cuomo said Wednesday that "the terrible news has basically been flat over the past several days" in New York, as the state has seen its number of coronavirus deaths, hospitalizations and intubations leveling off.