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Cuomo on COVID-19: Most remaining restrictions will lift when 70% of adult New Yorkers have received first dose of vaccine

Submitted + Updated

Mon, Jun 7th 2021 01:25 pm

‘New York Forward’ industry guidance on capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning & disinfection, health screening & contact information for tracing purposes will become optional in most commercial settings

√ Required guidance lifted for retail, food services, offices, gyms & fitness centers, amusement & family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops, personal care services and other commercial settings

√ Unvaccinated individuals responsible for maintaining social distancing of 6 feet and wearing a mask, per federal CDC guidance

√ Large-scale events venues, pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes & health care settings will be exempt and will still adhere to state's existing COVID-19 health protocols

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced most of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted once 70% of New Yorkers aged 18 or older have received the first dose of their coronavirus vaccination series.

“New York Forward” industry-specific guidelines – including capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing – will become optional for retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and personal care services, among other commercial settings. Large-scale event venues, pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care settings must continue to follow the state's guidelines until more New Yorkers are vaccinated.

Unvaccinated individuals will still be responsible for maintaining proper social distancing of 6 feet and wearing a mask as per federal Centers for Disease Control guidance. Consistent with the state's implementation of the recent CDC guidance, masks will still be required for unvaccinated individuals. Large-scale event venues, pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care settings will be exempt from the restriction lift. In those settings, New York state's existing COVID-19 health protocols will remain in effect.

"The lifting of our COVID restrictions is a sign of how hard New Yorkers have worked to contain the spread of the virus and protect their communities," Cuomo said. "With numbers trending at record lows, it is clear that the vaccine is effective and that it is an invaluable tool against the virus. While we have come so far, it is still imperative that those who have not received the vaccine do so, so that they may enjoy the state's reimagined reopening to the fullest extent possible."

After 70% of adult New Yorkers are vaccinated, businesses may choose to continue to adhere to the state's guidance or implement other health precautions for their employees and patrons. Businesses are also authorized to require masks and 6 feet of social distancing for employees and patrons within their establishments. Any mask requirements that businesses choose to implement must adhere to applicable federal and state laws and regulations (e.g., Americans with Disabilities Act). The Department of Health continues to strongly recommend masks and 6 feet of social distancing in indoor settings where vaccination status of individuals is unknown.

As a reminder, until the “New York Forward” industry guidance is lifted at the 70% vaccination rate, the following are current summary health guidelines that apply across most commercial and social settings. Further details can be found here.

Capacity – Capacity is only limited by the space available for individuals or parties of individuals to maintain the required social distancing based on vaccination status. For fully vaccinated individuals/parties, no social distancing is required.

√ Businesses may require proof of full vaccination status through paper form, digital application or the state's Excelsior Pass. Alternatively, businesses may rely upon self-reporting of vaccination status.

√ Distancing – Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to be socially distanced and unvaccinated/unknown individuals need to maintain 6 feet of social distance. In lieu of 6 feet of social distance, appropriate physical barriers may be used so long as they do not present a health or safety hazard.

√ Masks – Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks and unvaccinated/unknown individuals need to wear masks. Unvaccinated/unknown individuals may only remove their mask indoors while socially distanced, seated and eating/drinking and outdoors while maintaining social distancing of 6 feet and, if in an event or gathering setting, seated.

√ Hand hygiene – Hand hygiene stations or supplies must be provided for individuals to use; specifically, hand washing, such as soap, running water or disposable towels or hand sanitizing, such as alcohol-based sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol where hand washing may not be available or practical.

√ Cleaning and disinfection – Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least once a day, such as common areas and shared workstations and regularly clean and disinfect other surfaces as necessary given the level of traffic and type of individuals who use the space and general risk of community transmission of COVID-19.

√ Communication – Clearly communicate to individuals through signage, markers and other applicable methods the health precautions that are in effect within the specific setting based upon these principles, and any other restrictions that the business may choose to implement, such as capacity limits, social distancing, masks or hand hygiene.

√ Ventilation and air filtration – For indoor environments, increase outdoor airflow and ventilation rates to the extent compatible with individual comfort and safety, in accordance with building codes and standards. In indoor areas where air is recirculated, ensure HVAC system filtration meets the highest-rated filtration compatible with the currently installed filter rack and air handling systems – ideally a minimum of MERV-13, industry-equivalent, or greater – as applicable for the specific environment; and deploy other appropriate indoor air quality measures and engineering controls, such as portable fans, filters, and air cleaners as necessary

•Gatherings and events – For gatherings or events that exceed the state's social gathering limit of 250 indoors or 500 outdoors, these additional provisions apply, consistent with the state's implementation of the CDC guidance:

√ Proof of vaccination – For any setting where there is a concentrated gathering of persons above the social gathering limits without social distancing, proof of vaccination status must be required; self-reporting of vaccination status cannot be used. Event venues can operate up to 100% capacity so long as all attendees are fully vaccinated, consistent with applicable federal and state laws and regulations.

√ To attend indoor events above the gathering limit, attendees over the age of 4 who are not presenting proof of full vaccination status must instead present proof of recent negative COVID-19 test result, such as a PCR/NAAT test within 72 hours or antigen within 6 hours prior to admission. Outdoor events do not require proof of recent negative COVID-19 test result for unvaccinated/unknown individuals.

√ Health screening – All individuals must be health screened for coronavirus symptoms, recent close contacts, and recent positive COVID-19 test result, prior to, or immediately upon, arrival to the event. Screening may be performed via signage, at ticket purchase, by email/website, by telephone, or by electronic survey before individuals enter the event space. Temperature checks are no longer required.

√ Contact information – At least one individual from each party of attendees should sign-in during ticketing, or before or immediately upon entering the event space, providing their name, address and phone number or email address for use in potential contact tracing efforts. Sign-in process may be conducted through any means, including but not limited to a digital application and/or paper form. Sign-in data should be maintained for a minimum period of 28 days and made available to state and local health departments upon request.

School Districts

Cuomo also announced school districts can choose to lift the requirement that their students must wear masks outdoors. Guidance on mask use indoors remains in place. This change aligns New York state's guidance on schools with CDC guidance on summer camps, where even unvaccinated students are not currently required to wear masks outdoors.

"The numbers show that the risk of transmission by children is extremely low, especially in this state, which has an extremely low positivity rate. We spoke with the CDC and, since they're not going to change their guidance for several weeks in New York state, we're going to modify the CDC guidance and allow schools to choose no mask outside for children," Cuomo said. "We'll leave that up to the local school district – and we spoke to the CDC, which has no objection.

“It's very important that people understand the logic between these decisions and that they're rational and based on the science and the data. We have a disconnect right now between the school guidance and the camp guidance, and it's important to rectify it because, if people don't think the rules are logical, then they're not going to want to follow the rules."

On May 24, Cuomo announced that, based on the current COVID-19 trajectory, all New York schools will reopen for full in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year beginning in September.

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