Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that most of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted once 70 percent of New Yorkers aged 18 or older have received the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccination series. State’s 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, barbershops, 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 healthcare 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 six feet and wearing a mask as per federal CDC 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,” Governor 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 percent 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 six 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 six feet of social distancing in indoor settings where the vaccination status of individuals is unknown.

Students allowed to remove masks outdoors

The Governor also announced that 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,” Governor 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, Governor Cuomo announced that based on the current COVID trajectory, all New York State schools will reopen for full in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year beginning in September.