A guide to mask requirements in NY, NJ and Connecticut

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are among a number of states nationwide that are easing or ending mask mandates as coronavirus cases drop precipitously from their recent peaks. On Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul of New York announced that a statewide mask or vaccination proof warrant for all indoor public places would be allowed to expire Thursday. But it’s not time to completely put away those masks.

Each of the three states, as well as New York and other cities and towns in the region, continue to require masks in certain locations. And federal rules still require masks on all forms of public transportation and in transportation hubs, including at subway stations, bus stations and airports, at least through March 18.

New York City, once the epicenter of the pandemic, has stricter masking rules in place than many other parts of the country. Governor Hochul’s announcement lifts some, but not most, of those restrictions, returning New York to the masking rules that were in effect before Omicron’s surge began in December.

Masks will still be required in New York City on public transportation, including when taking cars and taxis. They will always be needed inside a school, in a daycare or health care facility, and in congregate residential facilities such as nursing homes and homeless shelters.

Additionally, owners of shops, restaurants, theaters or other public spaces are still allowed to require masks. In Broadway theaters, for example, masks and proof of vaccinations will continue to be required until at least April 30.

Restaurants, gyms, museums and other indoor cultural and entertainment venues are required to request proof of vaccination under a policy known as “Key to NYC.” This policy remains in effect. In these places, the masks can come off if the owners or the places allow it. But in practice, many cultural venues require masks in addition to proof of vaccination.

So what’s up? You can now remove your mask in shops, pharmacies, offices, hotel lobbies and supermarkets, if the owners of these businesses allow it. The same goes for offices: if your office allows you to not wear a mask for part or all of the time, you can.

But there is a big caveat: if you are not vaccinated, you must always wear a mask whenever you are in a public space, according to municipal regulations. About 86% of adult New York residents and 76% of residents of all ages are fully immunized.

Like New York, New York State has implemented multiple mask mandates for much of the pandemic. Many of these rules remain in place.

Masks are still required in healthcare and adult care facilities, nursing homes, homeless shelters and correctional facilities when social distancing is not possible. Masks are also still required at all schools serving K-12 students.

While she said she was not yet ready to lift the school mask mandate, which is based on a regulation set to expire on February 21, Governor Hochul said on Wednesday that schools would distribute test kits. at home before the next winter break to help assess infection levels.

She said she would make a decision on mask rules when students return to school, by the first week of March, and base it on data.

“This fight is not over,” she said, “but the trends are very, very positive.”

In accordance with federal rules, masks are also required on public transportation and at train stations, airports and other transportation hubs. And localities and businesses are also free to impose their own mask requirements.

But in places where they don’t, the masks can come off. This includes movie theatres, bowling alleys, stores, restaurants and offices, if landlords and localities permit.

There is also no longer a state requirement to present proof of vaccination before the masks can be removed. However, localities may continue to set vaccination requirements and businesses statewide may continue to request proof of vaccination.

Governor Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said this week he would lift the mask requirement for students and school employees, effective March 7. The change also applies to child care centers and preschools, where children aged 2 and over have been required to wear the masks too.

At this point, local school districts will be free to decide whether or not to require masks. In a sign of how contentious the issue of school masks has become for some of them, the New Jersey Department of Health has urged schools to discipline any student who bullies peers who continue to wear masks after the removal of mandate.

“Schools will not be permitted to prohibit the use of face coverings by individuals and will be required to take disciplinary action for bullying if it occurs as a result of an individual’s choice to continue wearing a mask,” a said the Ministry of Health in a press release. .

Unlike New York, New Jersey did not require masks in public indoor spaces statewide during the recent Omicron push, although masks are still required on public transportation and in health facilities. health.

A number of jurisdictions have gone further, imposing their own indoor mask requirements, although some of these have now been waived, in Hoboken, for example.

In Newark, a mask requirement is in effect inside “any public facility.”

In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont recommended lifting a statewide mandate requiring masks in schools and daycares on Feb. 28, when local jurisdictions could decide what to do for themselves.

But there is a wrinkle. Part of the governor’s pandemic authority to issue public health rules is set to expire before then, after Feb. 15. The Connecticut General Assembly does not act.

An order from Governor Lamont that also expires after Feb. 15 mandates masks for unvaccinated people in more indoor settings, beyond schools. Specifically, the rule requires people aged 2 and over who are not fully vaccinated to wear a mask indoors in a public place if they are unable to maintain “a safe social distance of approximately six feet from any other person”.

The governor’s office recently provided the legislature with a list of executive orders it recommends extending past Feb. 15.

Michael Gold contributed report.

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