Coronavirus Vaccine Updates: Mask mandates lift in many places, confusion in some states

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, May 20, 2021
Mask mandates lift for many, but changes causing confusion in some states
Mona Kosar Abdi has more on mask changes across the country.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- As the mask mandate lifts for vaccinated New Yorkers in most places, some say they aren't ready to drop the mask until more people get vaccinated.

In Texas, there's even more confusion and frustration after Governor Gregg Abbott signed an executive order threatening fines against any local officials who implement a mask mandate.

It came after the state recorded zero COVID deaths for the first day in more than a year. Houston's mayor suggested his city will not comply.

Meantime, White House Adviser Andy Slavitt made a personal appeal to young people to get vaccinated. He revealed his own teenage son has been battling COVID and its effects for months.

"He's young and fit and in the prime of his life," he said. "But six months later, he still suffers from tachycardia, shortness of breath, and ongoing and frequent flu-like symptoms."

Here are more of today's headlines:

Plaza Hotel offers tour ahead of Thursday reopening

The famed Plaza Hotel, a New York City icon, officially reopens after a lengthy coronavirus pandemic-related shutdown on Thursday, welcoming back guests for the first time in more than a year.

The landmark property at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South offered a tour Wednesday of the safety measures put into place, as it prepares for patrons to fill the hotel's exquisitely decorated guestrooms and suites.

Business owners stuck in the middle of New York's mask guidance and customers

Small business owners in New York are trying to figure out how far to govern the state's new indoor mask guidance based upon a customer's vaccination status. Seth Needleman, owner of The Fish Store in Bayport, said he has instructed his employees not to ask a customer without a mask on whether he or she has been vaccinated.

NYC eliminates hotel room occupancy tax for the summer

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order Wednesday eliminating New York City's hotel room occupancy tax for the summer in an effort to help accelerate the recovery of the hotel industry, which has been particularly hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 5.875% tax rate will be eliminated from June 1 through August 31, and the mayor hopes the action will help hotels keep their doors open, retain jobs, and gain a more stable footing as the city continues its path toward a full recovery.

"As our COVID rates continue to plummet and we continue to drive a recovery for all of us, tourists will be coming back to New York City in droves," de Blasio said. "We're ready for them. By eliminating the hotel room occupancy tax for this summer, we're accelerating our economic recovery, saving jobs and providing relief for one of our hardest-hit industries."

Texas governor bans mask mandates by state's public schools, other government entities

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday prohibiting state governmental entities such as counties, public school districts, public health authorities and government officials from requiring mask-wearing.

"Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up," Abbott said in a news release.

European Union agrees to allow entry to vaccinated tourists

Almost a year after closing its borders, the European Union has agreed to allow entry to vaccinated travelers from countries with low infection rates, raising the possibility of summer getaways to the continent. The highly anticipated move was confirmed on Wednesday as the EU published its recommendations for lifting travel restrictions into the bloc.

Amid less masking and more mingling, doctors see early signs of severe summer cold season

Even with masking mandates in place, some pediatricians are treating many children not for COVID-19, but for common cold viruses.

Walgreens, Whole Foods no longer require masks for fully vaccinated customers

Walgreens, Whole Foods and Kroger-owned stores have joined a list of businesses that say fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in their stores, following the CDC's recommendation. All three stores -- like Walmart, Trader Joe's and Costco before them -- say the policy only changes if local regulations allow it. Unvaccinated patrons still need to wear their masks

NJ to offer vaccine incentives as part of 'Operation Jersey Summer'

As part of "Operation Jersey Summer," a number of COVID-19 vaccine incentives will be offered to residents in the state of New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement Wednesday from Island Beach State Park in Seaside Park.

NY summer camps guidance

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced newly updated guidance for summer camps, day camps, and child care in New York. Most notably, children over the age of 2 will need to wear masks most of the time except while doing certain activities like eating, sleeping, or swimming.

NYC COVID indicators below benchmarks

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that for the first time since October, New York City's COVID indicators are below their thresholds for the first time since October.

NY lifts restrictions at most businesses, but NYC recommends indoor masking

New York state will end mask mandates and adopt CDC guidelines for the fully vaccinated beginning Wednesday, but New York City's health commissioner is still recommending masks indoors. Dr. David Chokshi said he will still wear a mask indoors -- and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The capacity restrictions on businesses in New York were fully lifted if social distancing can be maintained.

NJ businesses reopen; Indoor mask mandate remains

In New Jersey, you still have to wear a mask indoors, but this is still a day many business owners have been waiting for. New Jersey is lifting capacity restrictions on most industries including restaurants, gyms, hair salons, casinos, and houses of worship.

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