New York joins the growing list of states following the latest CDC face mask guidelines. Come May 19, if you're fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you won't have to wear a face mask in most places.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Cuomo announced the state will follow the CDC's latest mask guidelines starting May 19
  • The guidelines allow fully vaccinated New Yorkers to drop the masks in most places
  • Western New Yorkers believe this could ramp up vaccinations across the state


"That's really one of the things that I think a lot of people have been waiting for,” said Dr. Joseph Chow, president of Western New York Immediate Care.

Starting Wednesday, New Yorkers who are fully vaccinated don't have to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations.

"The studies that have been done more recently, came out over the past few weeks, says that the vaccines are effective against not only getting COVID, getting sick from COVID, but also decreases the transmission of the people who are asymptomatic,” said Dr. Chow. “This news of all the freedoms, I would say, should hopefully bring the vaccination rates up more.”

Dr. Chow considers this is a big step in the right direction, but thinks it's still important to keep an eye on COVID numbers. 

"How do we know that people who aren't vaccinated are going to still wear masks?” he said. “So there's a few factors that this now brings forward a few more questions." 

When it comes to businesses, the state Department of Health still recommends masks in indoor settings where vaccination status of individuals is unknown. The recommendation applies across commercial settings, including retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services, among other settings.

"For a retail setting like grocery stores, banks etc., the loosening of the restrictions is going to apply for the patrons, of course,” James Grasso, a partner at Phillips Lytle, said. “The question is, is it going to apply in the workplace such as manufacturing facilities?" 

Grasso believes the state's alignment with the CDC could put pressure on employers to mandate vaccines. 

"The CDC guidance, and now what the state is doing, is indicating that if everyone's fully vaccinated, that businesses don't have to abide by the social distancing rules anymore,” he said. “They can have full capacity. And I think employers are going to be pushing for the same thing to get back and running at 100% capacity.”