TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the end of New York’s mask mandate, beginning on Wednesday, May 19. The move follows last week’s announcement by the Centers for Disease Control that masks and social distancing are no longer necessary indoors and outdoors for people who are fully vaccinated.

The CDC’s guidance last week has led several states to announce the end of their various mask mandates, though there were several caveats to the initial guidance—one of which was that local and state mask mandates still applied. Cuomo had declined to end the mask mandate last week, though pressure had mounted over the weekend from county executives statewide eager for the economy to continue to reopen.

Like the CDC, New York State’s guidance still says that unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks for the protection of others.

In New York, Cuomo’s office said that there would still be mask mandates and social distancing requirements in place at the following locations: “Pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare settings will continue to follow State’s existing COVID-19 health guidelines until more New Yorkers are fully vaccinated.”

Tompkins County, where masks have been a relatively quiet issue since the beginning of the pandemic, will also follow the lead of Cuomo and the CDC.

“Tompkins County will follow New York’s guidance for mask wearing and social distancing,” said Tompkins County Director of Communications Dominick Recckio. “We will be updating the Health Department’s website and sharing the new guidance with the community on Wednesday when it goes into effect.”

In terms of tangible change, it may be difficult to assess exactly how much Cuomo’s announcement will change mask usage, particularly considering a crucial piece of information in the state’s press release on the announcement: “Department of Health strongly recommends masks in indoor settings where vaccination status of individuals is unknown. Mask requirements by businesses must adhere to all applicable federal and state laws and regulations.”

More details are available at this link for what Cuomo’s announcement applies to, particularly large and small events, and it’s likely the local impacts will be even further clarified on Wednesday when the Tompkins County Health Department’s guidance is posted.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com