Coronavirus News: New Yorkers must wear face coverings in public if can't keep social distance

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state residents will be required to wear face coverings when they are out and coming in close contact with other people.

The new mandate will require a mask or face covering on busy streets, public transit or any situation where people cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

The executive order is similar to recommendations already in effect in New York City and will be in force Friday.

"Stopping the spread is everything. How can you not wear a mask when you're going to come close to a person?" Cuomo said at his daily briefing. "On what theory would you not do that?"

The governor said there will initially be no civil penalties for noncompliance, but he's urging merchants to enforce it among customers.

Though hospitalizations from the outbreak are leveling off, New York officials are trying to dramatically reduce transmission rates as the death toll rises. New York recorded 752 deaths Tuesday, for a total of more than 11,000 in just over a month. Those figures don't include approximately 3,800 other deaths in New York City during the outbreak that city officials say were probably caused by the virus, but haven't been confirmed by a lab test.

Cuomo's announcement came hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for stores to make customers wear face coverings in order to protect store workers against exposure.

The MTA later released a statement saying that the mandate will apply to all who ride the subway:

"Pursuant to the Governor's Executive Order, all customers will be required to wear a face covering while traveling with us during this pandemic, effective Friday April 17. We commend the Governor for his leadership in ensuring a safe environment for the essential workers riding with us. We remind New Yorkers to stay home and observe social distancing measures whenever possible. Walk down the platform, board a different train car or wait for the next train or bus where possible - we all need to change our behavior to protect each other. Wearing masks and other face coverings in public will help stop the spread and ultimately save lives."

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