Gov. Andrew Cuomo Mandates That All New Yorkers Wear Face Masks In Public

People wear masks in a grocery store.
THOMAS KRONSTEINER / Getty Images

All New York residents must wear masks or have their mouths covered while out in public, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared on Wednesday.

The measure is the latest from the state in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The state government has already put strict measures in place to close non-essential businesses and has advised residents to remain in their homes as much as possible. Cuomo’s new executive order calls for residents to wear masks or cloth coverings in situations where they are unable to maintain socially distanced, including on public transportation and in grocery stores.

As CNYCentral.com reported, Cuomo said the order was in line with advice that the state has been offering since social distancing measures were first put in place, calling on people to use common sense and cover their faces whenever they are in close proximity to others.

“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 are not in socially distanced places,” he said while announcing the measure on Wednesday. “You’re walking down the street, you’re walking down the street alone? Great. You’re now at an intersection and there are people in the intersection and you’re going to be in proximity to other people? Put the mask on.”

Cuomo said there could potentially be civil penalties for those who do not comply, but that they would not be put in place immediately and — if and when those penalties go into effect — they would be enforced at the local level.

New York has been hit the hardest by the coronavirus, especially the metro New York City area. Experts have said the state appears to be at or near the peak of cases, after several weeks of rapid increases. As the analysis site FiveThirtyEight noted, the share of New Yorkers testing positive for coronavirus show that the curve has already flattened and is now starting to turn back downward.

“Among tests conducted Monday, April 13 (and reported on Tuesday afternoon), 34.5 percent were positive, down from a peak of 50.4 percent on Tuesday, March 31,” the report noted.

It added that decreases in coronavirus cases have been “fairly robust” across all parts of the state, including the New York City boroughs. But it found that the downturn in cases was occurring rather slowly, showing that even with social distancing measures, there could still be a high number of daily cases and deaths for some time to come.