New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring all New Yorkers to wear masks or face coverings in busy public places to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading further.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, he said the order will be mandatory anywhere New Yorkers are unable to stand six feet apart, including subways, transit, public transit and busy streets.
“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.
The governor added that there will be a three-day grace period “to allow compliance just on the off chance somebody doesn’t have a cloth covering or mask.”
No civil penalty will be incurred for those who are not wearing a mask, but Cuomo asked store-owners enforce the order.
Despite a recent decrease in state hospitalizations from the outbreak, New York officials are still working to dramatically reduce transmission rates as the death toll rises.
“The health-care situation has stabilized, the fears of overwhelming the health-care system has not happened,” Cuomo said.
The New York governor commended the efforts of front-line workers on helping get the infection spread down to a “manageable number,” and said it was time to start building “a bridge” to the reopening of the economy and “a new normal.”
“This is the way of the world now, we’re moving to a new place, more challenging place, but also potentially a better place,” he said.
Over 200,000 people in New York have been infected with the virus according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, accounting for a third of total confirmed cases in the U.S.
Cuomo’s announcement comes a day after the university recorded 752 deaths in New York, for a total of more than 7,905 as of Wednesday afternoon.
City officials told the Associated Press that those figures don’t include 3,800 other deaths in New York City they said were likely caused by the virus, but haven’t been confirmed by a lab test.
Prior to Cuomo’s directive, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged shoppers to wear masks or face coverings in grocery stores to better protect store workers from exposure to the virus.
“Every store has the right to put up that guidance and make it a requirement in terms of entry into the store,” he said.
“This will help everyone to remember when they’re in that kind of space it’s so important to protect each other, to protect the whole community.”
— With files from the Associated Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.