New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is signing an executive order that will mandate that all New Yorkers going out in public during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis must wear a face mask or cloth covering when unable to maintain social distance space of 6 feet.
The measure will take effect after three days, Cuomo said at his daily news briefing in Albany on Wednesday, April 15.
Cuomo said that “stopping the spread” is key, and the new order will require face coverings that fit over both the nose and mouth in any situation someone could be within six feet of another.
Cuomo mentioned food shopping, taking public transit, and busy streets as examples of when New Yorkers now must wear the face covering.
“You must wear it in any situation where you are not maintaining social distancing," he said. "If you’re going to be in public and you cannot maintain social distancing, then it’s easy, just have a mask.
"If you go out in public where you may come into contact with other people in a non-socially distant way, you must cover your nose and mouth. This is now by executive order.”
The executive order goes into effect on Saturday, April 18 to allow for time if needed to acquire a cloth covering or mask. Cuomo said that there could be civil penalties for those who fail to comply with the order, but civic penalties are unlikely unless there is mass non-compliance.
“Local governments would enforce it, but you don’t want to go to a penalty just yet," he said. "We haven’t seen any flagrant non-compliance to any other mandates, and this one seems like an easy one.
"I don’t know all the local laws out there regarding masks, but this one is a state order.”
Cuomo said that if people were willing to mostly comply with social distancing and “stay at home” orders, he expects they’ll be willing to sport a mask when they stretch their legs and leave the house.
“How can you not wear a mask if you’re going to come into close contact with a person? In what way does that make any sense?” he questioned. “Just wear a mask when you go out. Keep it tucked under your chin, and if you are about to come into close contact with a person, just put it over your nose and mouth. It’s not that hard.
“Everybody’s been working so hard to stop the spread of the disease. The harm done if someone gets the disease and comes into contact with others could have a major impact on the numbers. So just wear the mask, what’s the big deal.”
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