Why the unvaccinated still have to wear a mask in NY

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN)- The State of Emergency in New York may have ended but the New York State Department of Health (DOH) is remaining cautious about COVID. The same day the State of Emergency ended it readopted some emergency regulations that would allow them and health agencies in the state to react quickly should another spike in COVID cases happens.

On June 15, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced 70 percent of New Yorkers over the age of 18 had been vaccinated against COVID, supposedly meaning the end to all COVID restrictions. On June 24 the State of Emergency expired, it was also the day the DOH readopted some COVID-era emergency regulations like the “Surge and Flex” strategy and requiring masks in public for unvaccinated people for a period of time.

A DOH spokesperson said while it’s encouraging the majority of adult New Yorkers to be vaccinated, people are still dying from COVID and the DOH is doing its part to be prepared for a spike in cases. Two deaths from COVID statewide were announced by Governor Cuomo on July 1, the lowest reported daily COVID deaths since last September.

The readopted emergency regulations call for unvaccinated New Yorkers to continue wearing a mask in public spaces and when unable to social distance.

Businesses that hold large-scale indoor events with over 5,000 attendees must require unvaccinated people to wear a mask. However, it does give them the option to require all people to wear masks regardless if they are vaccinated or not. If a business chooses to have everyone wear a mask, they have the right to refuse entry to anyone who doesn’t wear one.

Part of the readopted emergency regulations requires hospitals and nursing homes to keep a certain amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) on hand. They also require hospitals to keep an emergency plan in place which includes the ability of staff to work remotely and report necessary data to the health commissioner.

Earlier in the week, Saint Peters Health Partners announced its hospital had no one hospitalized with COVID since the beginning of the pandemic. Dr. Steven Hanks, chief clinical officer for St. Peter’s Health Partners told NEWS10 he expects some cases will arise from COVID variants like Delta and that the hospital was prepared to treat them.

Although, state COVID testing sites have been shut down the DOH is working with laboratories and other health care facilities to continue monitoring cases. It said 4,161 state-contracted contact tracing staff were still being employed on Wednesday.

“While New York’s continued case decline is welcome news, contact tracing is still occurring as a necessary tool to stop virus spread,” DOH said.

The Wadsworth Center is sequencing approximately 90 COVID tests a day to monitor the prevalence of variants in the state.

Nursing homes and adult care facilities have to offer unvaccinated residents and staff COVID vaccinations as part of the extended emergency regulations.

The “surge and flex”, PPE requirement for hospitals and nursing homes, as well as the requirement that nursing homes and adult care facilities offer COVID vaccinations, are all set to expire on August 8. Social distancing and mask regulations are set to expire on September 21.

They could be extended if deemed necessary beyond their current expiration date, according to a DOH spokesperson. The emergency regulations can be read in their entirety on the DOH website.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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