Coronavirus: New York governor announces executive order saying everyone must wear a mask in public

The order will go into effect in three days, Governor Andrew Cuomo says

Danielle Zoellner
Wednesday 15 April 2020 19:18 BST
New York Governor issues executive order for all residents to wear masks in public

New Yorkers must now wear a mask, or cloth covering, when out in public in a situation where social distancing measures cannot be put into effect, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said.

During his daily press briefing on Wednesday, the governor announced the new executive order to further protect residents from the coronavirus when leaving their homes.

“Any situation in public where you cannot maintain social distancing” would apply during the executive order, Mr Cuomo said. The order will go into effect in three days to give people time to comply.

“Local governments should start to enforce it,” he added, stating there would not currently be a civil penalty for not complying, but one could eventually be enforced.

As a form of exercise, New Yorkers have taken to walking around their neighbourhood, which is allowed under stay-at-home orders. Mr Cuomo said walking alone was “fine” without wearing a mask.

“If you’re going to get on public transit, you’re going to get on a bus, you’re going to get on a subway, you’re going to stand on a subway platform, you’re going to walk in a neighbourhood that is busy, you’re going to be on a sidewalk, you’re going to pass other people on a sidewalk, you’re not going to be able to maintain social distancing, you must wear a mask,” the governor said.

His executive order comes after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday residents would be required to wear a mask or face covering when in a grocery store.

But now New Yorkers will be required to wear face masks across the entirety of the state in any public space where six feet cannot be maintained between people.

Mr Cuomo also spoke about the steps needed for the state to safely reopen its economy during the pandemic.

He implored the Trump administration to prioritise testing in the next wave of tackling the coronavirus.

The state, which has been the epicentre of Covid-19, has become a leader in testing for the US. But New York’s testing efforts are not enough, the governor said, to safely reopen the economy before a vaccine is created.

“We’ve done more tests than any other states. Nearly 500,000 tests. In all this time we’ve only done 500,000 tests,” Mr Cuomo said. “This is a large number of tests, yes, but this is over a month-long period. You’re talking about a state with 19m people.”

The “unvarnished truth” is that the state does not have the capacity to test at the level it needs to when considering reopening.

“We can’t do it without federal support,’ he said.

Mr Cuomo compared increased testing to ventilators during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, saying “partnership” between the federal government and states is imperative.

Testing has been a source of frustration since the coronavirus started its spread through the US. Countries such as South Korea prioritised testing from the beginning to determine how the novel virus was infiltrating communities. In comparison, the US largely lagged behind.

Mr Trump revealed last week more than 2m Americans have been tested thus far for the novel virus, a significant increase after testing picked up. But health experts, including Dr Anthony Fauci, admitted more testing is still needed in order to prevent a resurgence of the virus when parts of the country reopen.

For New York, the governor said the state lacks funding and the capabilities to increase testing further, which is likely a problem for a majority of the US.

“The more testing, the more opening of the economy,” Mr Cuomo said.

The coronavirus infection and hospitalisation rate has started to plateau in New York, but the death toll still remains high in the state, with 752 residents dying from the virus on Tuesday.

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