All people in New York state will now be required to wear a face covering in public when they cannot maintain social distancing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

“If you're going to be in public and you cannot maintain social distancing, then have a mask and put the mask on when you're not in socially-distant places,” the governor said. “You're walking down the street, you're walking down the street alone, great.”


There will be a three-day notice for compliance for the executive order the governor announced Wednesday. The order takes effect Friday at 8 p.m. and applies to everyone over the age of 2 years old.

Cuomo said New Yorkers must wear coverings in “any situation in public where you cannot maintain social distancing.” He added a covering can be medical-grade or a cloth covering over the nose and mouth.


When asked if people would be penalized for not wearing a face covering, Cuomo said civil penalties were possible if people do not follow the order.

The order comes about two weeks after New York City changed its guidelines and advised people to cover their mouth and nose when in public to prevent potential transmission of the new coronavirus regardless of whether or not they have symptoms of the virus. Up until that point, city and federal guidance stressed masks should only be worn by those who are sick or working in health care.

But recent studies have shown asymptomatic people may be significantly contributing to the spread of COVID-19, and some health officials believe wearing masks could in fact decrease the spread.

The city has stressed that New Yorkers should not use medical-grade masks — such as surgical masks and N95 masks, which need to be saved for health care professionals and other first responders on the front lines of the pandemic.

New Yorkers were also advised to not share their face coverings. An individual should use them for a day, and then hand wash them in soap and water and let them dry. New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said New Yorkers should have more than one face covering.

As long as they do not get wet, paper masks are acceptable to use, Barbot said.

However, there is no consensus among health experts on how effective face coverings are, and the governor said earlier this month that he was not sure if they helped considerably. Some health officials have also expressed concerns face coverings provide a false sense of security, and Cuomo’s own health commissioner dismissed the city’s face coverings guideline as unproven.


752 additional people died in New York state as a result of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, Cuomo said around midday Wednesday, bringing the confirmed death count to 11,586. Among those new deaths, Cuomo said, 708 were in hospitals and 45 in nursing homes.

Citywide, as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, there were 111,424 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an estimated 29,741 hospitalizations, and 10,899 deaths (6,840 confirmed and 4,059 probable).

On Tuesday, New York City health officials released new figures sharply increasing the city’s death toll.

Department of Health officials said the new numbers reflect people suspected of dying from the virus but who didn’t have a test, including people who died at home, in nursing homes and hospitals.

For weeks, the department had been counting the presumed virus deaths based on symptoms and medical history, but only those who tested positive and died of COVID-19 were included in the public count.

Cuomo said the state may also revise its count of total deaths.

“The CDC changed guidelines on how they want information reported. They want deaths and then another category of probable deaths, which is a new category that's done by the local department of health or the coroner,” the governor said. “We're going to rationalize those new reporting requirements with local governments and get that information out as soon as we can.”

The borough-by-borough breakdown of confirmed cases, with some fluctuation in the numbers:

  • Queens: 34,831 confirmed cases
  • Brooklyn: 29,250
  • The Bronx: 24,587
  • Manhattan: 14,188
  • Staten Island: 8,504

A week ago, New York City's confirmed case total was 80,204. A week before that: 45,707.

According to the state, New York state has seen, as of midnight Tuesday, 213,779 confirmed coronavirus cases.


Cuomo said testing will be the key to a phased reopening as the state kick starts 2,000 daily antibody tests via finger prick this week. But, New York can’t fulfill testing at a widespread scale without the federal government’s support, he added.

First responders and health care workers will be the first group to be prioritized for antibody tests.

Cuomo said a phased reopening of the economy will be based on public health safety and the slowing infection rate. Businesses and services will be considered for reopening based on how “essential” they are and what the risk of “infection spread” is.

With a vaccine 12 to 18 months away, Cuomo said he’s “ambitious” to form a partnership with the federal government to conduct trials on New Yorkers.

While ventilator use is going down, as are the number of new hospitalizations in New York state, the number of deaths from COVID-19 have remained steady at more than 700 for 7 out of the last 8 days.

And more than 18,000 people remain hospitalized statewide, with 2,000 New Yorkers still being diagnosed daily with the virus, Cuomo said.

Fears of overwhelming the health care system have stabilized, Cuomo said, pointing to how 50 percent additional hospital capacity was achieved in one month.

With hospitalizations not reaching the levels the state feared, Cuomo said he’s giving 100 ventilators to the state of Michigan and 50 to Maryland.

In his press conference, the governor also thanked the federal government for their support in setting up the Javits Center as an overflow area which has utilized 800 of the 2,500 beds.


This story included reporting from Zack Fink.



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