The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made headlines earlier this month with its updated guidance signaling that it is safe for vaccinated Americans to forego face masks in most public situations.
Now, New York and Massachusetts are set to end their statewide mask mandates and social distancing rules in accordance with the CDC directive.
“Do it in the way New Yorkers do it”
The Democratic governors of both states announced on Monday that they would soon no longer require fully vaccinated people to wear masks or remain socially distanced in most indoor locations.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state would implement the change on Wednesday, while Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s new order will go into effect on May 29.
In his statement, Cuomo advised: “We have to reopen with a cautious eye, but we have to get back to life.”
The governor, who is currently embroiled in multiple political scandals, told residents of his state that they “have to get back to life and living” and “do it in the way New Yorkers do it, quickly and robustly.”
Both states will continue to require masks in most health care facilities, while using public transportation, in prisons, and indoors in public schools.
“I can’t promise that it will continue this way”
Masks are also advised for those who are not fully vaccinated, contributing to a divide that is likely to fuel privacy concerns and confusion among businesses trying to enforce the CDC guidelines.
Most stores and businesses are relying on some form of the honor system, which does not require individuals to reveal their personal vaccination status, but could result in unvaccinated people blending in among the increasingly maskless public in violation of federal recommendations.
Even if such a scenario causes increases in transmission for the shrinking unvaccinated population, those who are fully inoculated are said to be at extremely minimal risk of transmitting COVID-19 or suffering a severe infection.
For his part, President Joe Biden announced that deaths attributed to the virus had declined substantially and reached the lowest level since April 2020, warning that the change could be reversed if a significant portion of the country declines to receive a vaccination.
“I can’t promise that it will continue this way,” he said. “We know that there will be advances ad setbacks and we know that many flareups could occur. But if the unvaccinated get vaccinated, they’ll protect themselves and other unvaccinated people around them.”