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New York Gov. Cuomo to order all people to wear masks or face coverings in public

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to issue an executive order requiring all people to wear a mask or face covering while in public as the state works to combat the worst coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., he said Wednesday.

"If you are going to be in a situation, in public, where you come into contact with other people in a situation that is not socially distanced you must have a mask or a cloth covering nose and mouth," Cuomo said during a press conference in Albany.

Cuomo said the state is moving to a "new normal" as he outlined a gradual reopening of businesses, saying the crisis won't be over until a vaccine is made available.

"Where we're going, it's not a reopening in that we're going to reopen what was. We're going to a different place," Cuomo said.

There are more than 600,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. with more than a third of those concentrated in New York, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. While the outbreak appears to be leveling off, Cuomo said there are roughly 2,000 new cases confirmed in the state every day. The economy won't be able to make a full comeback until there's a vaccine, which scientists have said will take up to a year and a half, he said.

Rules for wearing of face coverings in New York State stated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, April 15, 2020.Source: New York State

"It's over when people know I'm 100% safe and I don't have to worry about this. When does that happen? When we have a vaccine," he said.Β "Until you have a vaccine, until you have the medical treatment, what do you do? How are you building the bridge? Well, it's going to be a phased reopening."

Part of that phased reopening is requiring people to wear face masks, he said, adding that he's giving a three-day grace period before the new rule takes effect. Local governments would enforce the order, but fines won't be issued at this time, he said. It would apply to people on public transit, including the subway, buses as well as in public spaces like grocery stores, he said. It would even apply to people walking on the sidewalk. The covering can be a bandana or scarf as long as it covers their nose and mouth.

"You're right to go out for a walk in the park, go out for a walk because you need to get out of the house. The dog is getting on your nerves, fine.Β Don't infect me. You don't have a right to infect me," he said.Β 

Cuomo's order came nearly two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its national coronavirus guidelines to recommend wearing face coverings in public places "where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain … especiallyΒ in areas of significant community-based transmission."

The CDC stressed at the time that people should maintain social-distancing practices – staying six feet away from others in public and staying home whenever possible – even if they wear face coverings.Β 

Health experts say there's little evidence to show that cloth coverings can protect the wearer from contracting Covid-19 from others. But they may help to prevent people with illnesses from spreading their germs around.

Cuomo said that reopening commerce in his state, and the rest of the country, in the absence of a vaccine for the coronavirus would also hinge on testing people for Covid-19 and tracing the contacts of those people who test positive.

"The more testing, the more open the economy," Cuomo said.

The governor repeatedly said that the federal government needs to help expand the capacity for testing, noting that there are not currently enough tests available to do the level of screening that will be needed.

"We cannot do it without federal support and I've been saying it for days," Cuomo said. In addition to increasing test capacity, he said the federal government also would have to help states fund what would be "an army" of tracers to identify people who have had interactions with infected people.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.Β 


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