New York to require face coverings in busy public places

NEW YORK (AP) — Even as politicians talk about “reopening” the country, New York is still intensifying restrictions intended to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

Face coverings will now be required in any place where people can’t stay at least six feet away from other people. While other isolation measures seem to have worked in keeping new infections down, New Yorkers continue to die by the hundreds every day. Meanwhile, New York City officials said they would create an emergency food reserve and take other steps to fight hunger in a city where huge numbers of people have been thrown out of work.

The mandate will require a mask or face covering, like a bandanna, on busy streets, public transit, or any situation where people cannot maintain six feet of social distancing, even if it is passing a person briefly on a wooded trail. The order takes effect today.

“Stopping the spread is everything. How can you not wear a mask when you’re going to come close to a person?” Cuomo said at his daily briefing. “On what theory would you not do that?”

The Governor, who has himself eschewed masks during his daily news briefings, though he comes within six feet of his staff, said there will initially be no civil penalties for noncompliance, but he’s urging merchants to enforce it among customers.

Though hospitalisations from the outbreak have leveled off, New York officials are still trying to reduce the rising death toll. New York recorded 752 deaths on Tuesday, for a total of nearly 11,600 since the outbreak began. Those figures don’t include roughly 4,000 more deaths in New York City that city officials said were probably caused by the virus, but haven’t been confirmed by a lab test.

Cuomo’s announcement came hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for stores to make customers wear face coverings in order to protect workers against exposure. De Blasio had previously recommended face coverings in public in the city.

A sign by the New York City parks department indicates the appropriate measurement for social distancing as pedestrians linger in a field at Fort Greene Park. PHOTO: AP