Masks or cloth coverings are to be worn over the nose and mouth starting Friday
New Yorkers will soon have to start wearing masks or cloth coverings over their mouths and noses in public to help fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
He announced plans to issue an executive order mandating the masks be worn whenever New Yorkers cannot maintain at least six feet of space between themselves and others in public, citing the social-distancing measure taken to limit the risk of infection.
"If you are in public and you cannot maintain social distancing, then have a mask," Cuomo said.
The order is expected to take effect Friday to allow people time to obtain masks or cloth coverings to follow the new rules, Cuomo said, adding local authorities will be tasked with enforcing the mandate.
He noted there could be a civil penalty imposed in the future if people don't follow the new rules.
The order comes after the Trump administration earlier this month advised people to start wearing face masks in public to stop the spread of the coronavirus, a reversal on previous guidance that urged people not to wear masks.
For months, the federal government recommended the general public not wear masks, in part to help preserve them for health care workers.
Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, had previously said the general public did not need to wear masks unless they came into contact with coronavirus patients or if they were sick.
Cuomo's mask-wearing mandate comes as New York's death toll reached 11,586 as of Wednesday afternoon, up 752 from the prior day. The figure didn't include thousands of probable coronavirus deaths reported in New York City connected to a new method of counting the virus's death toll.
Cuomo described how people would be wearing the masks on public transit, in grocery stores and crowded streets. He noted people could still take walks and jog once the mandate takes effect.
"You wear a mask, you keep it below your chin, and then when you are running and come close to a person, you either run across the street or you put the mask up over your mouth and nose," he said.
Meanwhile, guidelines from World Health Organization, or WHO, advises people should limit the amount of times they touch masks or cloth coverings in public.
"Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water," WHO guidelines state.
The CDC guidelines for cloth coverings advise they should be "routinely washed depending on the frequency of use."
The CDC added "a cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but it may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others."