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A Guide to New York’s New Rules on Masks and Distancing

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York eased its mask and social distancing mandates again on Wednesday, but people shouldn't be throwing their face coverings in the garbage just yet.

Masks are still required for everyone in many settings. Millions of unvaccinated New Yorkers still have to wear them in most public places. Private businesses can still set rules that exceed state requirements.

Here's a look at where the state rules stand:

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WHERE ARE MASKS STILL REQUIRED FOR EVERYONE IN NEW YORK?

New York is following federal guidance recommending that masks still be worn by everyone, whether they are vaccinated or not, in elementary, middle and high schools, on public transit and in homeless shelters, jails, nursing homes and other health care settings.

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I'M VACCINATED! WHERE CAN I UNMASK IN NEW YORK?

Other than the places listed above, people who are fully vaccinated  no longer have to wear masks either indoors or outdoors in most settings, the state says, except when specifically required by "federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance."

An individual is "fully vaccinated" two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series, according to the CDC, or two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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I'M NOT FULLY VACCINATED. WHERE MUST I MASK UP?

This is the largest category of New Yorkers. As of Monday, about 58% of all state residents were not fully vaccinated.

These folks must still must wear masks in most public settings. That includes both indoors — like in shops or at a workplace — or outdoors if they are unable to stay at least 6 feet away from other people.

There are exceptions, like when eating or drinking at a restaurant or for kids under age 2.

Nobody is required to wear a mask in the privacy of their own home.

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ARE MASKS REQUIRED IN SUPERMARKETS, THEATRES AND OTHER BUSINESSES?

Individual businesses in New York can still mandate mask-wearing in their establishments, even for fully vaccinated people, if they wish. Or, they could require them only for the unvaccinated.

The state Department of Health still "strongly recommends" the use of masks indoors when the vaccination status of all the people present is unknown.

The governor said that it's up to businesses and venues to decide how to check someone's vaccination status, if they choose to do so.

"They can ask at the door. They can ask when you are seated at the table, or not," Cuomo said Monday. "There is no mandatory compliance that the state is imposing on the private vendors."

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CAN BUSINESSES OPEN AT FULL CAPACITY IN NEW YORK?

Sort of.

As of Wednesday, most businesses can welcome full crowds again, but only to the point where there is still room for 6 feet of social distancing in "areas where vaccination status of individuals is unknown and for patrons who do not present proof of full vaccination status."

There are no limits for businesses or events that plan only on admitting people who can present proof they are fully vaccinated.

Businesses can also open up a "separate, designated part" of their facility for vaccinated people only.

It's unclear how the state will enforce the new capacity rules.

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HOW CAN SOMEONE PROVE THEY'RE VACCINATED? 

People can show their paper vaccination card or use the state's smartphone app, Excelsior Pass.

Methods might wind up varying from business to business, and in most places this is likely to work on the honor system.

When Jim Dolan, CEO of Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp, announced a plan this week to open Radio City Music Hall exclusively to fully vaccinated theatergoers, he acknowledged the details of how to verify vaccination status had yet to be worked out.

"That's a really good question, I have no idea," Dolan said Monday. "We will be working with the state, and we will figure out a way for it to happen."

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