NY lifts mask requirements for the vaccinated, but apprehension remains

Coronavirus Update for New York
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Capacity limits have been lifted in New York as of Wednesday, and there are no more mask or social distance requirements for those who are fully vaccinated.

"Today is a milestone in New York State's war against COVID," Governor Andrew Coumo said. "With positivity and hospitalization rates at their lowest levels since last fall, and more than 10 million New Yorkers having received at least one vaccine dose, today New York State is adopting the CDC's updated guidance on masks and social distancing."

The question remains, though, how many businesses will adhere to the new CDC guidance.

Masks are still required for everyone in many settings, including public transportation, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters, and millions of unvaccinated New Yorkers still have to wear them in most public places -- though that is based on the honor system, which is a cause of concern for many.

Private businesses can still set rules that exceed state requirements, and it's up to that businesses or venues to decide how to check someone's vaccination status, if they choose to do so.

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Candace McCowan reports on the COVID guidelines changes from Hell's Kitchen.


"399 days after New York was the first state in the country to implement a mask mandate, effective today, fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to use a face covering in most public places," Coumo said. "New York is coming back, and it's a testament to the strength and grit of New Yorkers who banded together, stayed tough, and fought as one to defeat this COVID beast."

The fitness chain Equinox is no longer requiring their members to wear masks if they are vaccinated, unless state mask rules are still in effect. They are also not requiring any proof of vaccination.

However, customers must still book their gym sessions ahead of time.

"The steps we're taking today don't mean that COVID has been officially relegated to the history books," Coumo said. "We need to stay vigilant, continue to follow the safety guidelines in place, and help every single eligible New Yorker get vaccinated, so that we can finally reach that light at the end of the tunnel. And as we start to climb the next mountains in our path, we need to ensure that the values that got New York through this crisis -- community, discipline, strength, toughness, and love for each other -- endure."

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Trader Joe's is another business that is lifting restrictions, no longer requiring vaccinated customers to mask up.

And in restaurants across New York, capacity limits are gone. If customers are vaccinated, restaurant and bar owners can pack them in.

"When the guests come through the door, it's going to the first question that we ask, 'Are you guys vaccinated? Can you prove it? Can you just show a quick bit of proof?'" one owner said. "And then, essentially, 'If you guys are happy enough to take your mask off, you're more than welcome to do so.'"

There's still apprehension among customers, though.

"It is going to be a little stressful, I think, because you're so used to being careful and making sure you stay apart from everybody," one said.

We have learned that the CDC's mask mandates caught Governor Andrew Cuomo off guard, which he expressed in a private call obtained by ABC News.

Still, the governor aligned New York with the new guidance.

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New Yorkers themselves have differing opinions about whether they'll actually ditch the face coverings.

"As much as I love sporting events and concerts, I'm probably staying out of arenas for a little longer until we know how safe it is," one resident said.

And then there's the question of trusting others.

"Not knowing who's been vaccinated or not, that makes me a little nervous," another said. "So I will, even though I have been vaccinated, continue to wear my mask."

Even New York City's health commissioner says he will continue to wear a mask indoors until the majority of people are vaccinated.

The MTA says their last survey showed 99% of passengers are using masks on the subways, where they are still required.

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