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Onondaga County Still Working Through What New Mask Rules Mean For Businesses, Public

Onondaga County

New York will adopt the CDC’s newest guidance, allowing vaccinated people to go without a mask in most settings. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said he is pleased to see the Governor follow the guidance.

He added that having rules in line with the CDC is important to build credibility with the public. He plans to modify the current mask policy at the county building in accordance with the new rules.

“Next, or Wednesday, when it starts, when I get on the elevator I will no longer wear this nice looking mask,” said McMahon. “Whether I change my mind if I go into a different type of setting, I reserve the right to always pivot and put a mask on if I feel uncomfortable.”

McMahon said those who feel more comfortable keeping their masks on should do so.

The new mask guidance has prompted many questions, and his office is still trying to figure out all of the specifics. McMahon said he believes private businesses will still be able to require mask wearing within their establishments, if that’s what they’d like to do. However, that can be a challenge.

“It’s very difficult to enforce. We’re the government, right, and it’s hard for us to enforce. I can’t imagine that many businesses would take that approach with their customers. They may ask their employees to wear your masks or what not. But, I think they do have, with what was spoken about today, I think they do have that ability,” said McMahon.

And if a business decides to keep a mask requirement on their premises, and need assistance enforcing those rules with customer who won’t comply, McMahon isn’t entirely sure yet how local government will respond.

“And this is the challenge of this, right? We’ve never been here yet,” said McMahon. “If you call 911, I would assume you would call 911, right. And then a dispatch would go to the police department. We have to work through how that all, what that all means. And it’s been really hard to enforce anyways. So, we’ve got to work through some of these things.”

He anticipates having more detailed guidance later in the week. As the county figures out local logistics with the new rules, they’re encouraging the public to reach out to their office with questions. The state will officially adopt the new guidance on Wednesday May 19th.


By Karen Dewitt, Capitol Correspondent

Governor Andrew Cuomo says New York will adopt the new CDC guidelines on masks on Wednesday, May 19th. Fully vaccinated people will no longer have to wear masks outdoors or indoors, and won’t have to socially distance.

Cuomo says those who have received all of their required vaccine doses two or more weeks ago will no longer have to wear masks outside, or inside stores, gyms, and offices.

“If you are vaccinated, you are safe,” Cuomo said. “No masks, no social distancing.” 

The fully vaccinated can also travel without having to quarantine or take a Covid test, but the tests might still be required for international flights returning to the U.S.

People who are unvaccinated or have not yet received all of their doses still have to wear masks and maintain six feet of distance from others. And masks will still be required on public transportation, including subways and airplanes, as well as in nursing homes, hospitals and doctors’ offices, and schools. Masks will also continue to be mandatory for homeless shelters and prisons.

Cuomo previously announced that many other pandemic era rules will also end Wednesday, including curfews for bars and restaurants, and many capacity limits for outdoor and indoor events.

The governor also says the New York City marathon will take place on November 7th, at 60% capacity with up to 33,000 runners. Registration opens June 8th.

County fairs will be allowed to take place, as long as they can maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

Credit Governor Cuomo's Flickr page
Gov. Cuomo makes a series of COVID-related announcements at Radio City Music Hall Monday. 

Cuomo made the announcements at Radio City Music Hall, where he said the closing ceremonies of the  TriBeCa film festival will be held on June 19th.

But only the fully vaccinated will be allowed to attend.

James Dolan, who manages the music hall as well as Madison Square Garden, says a planned concert series this summer will require that ticket holders be vaccinated. Dolan, who also owns the New York Knicks basketball team, says the unvaccinated will be allowed at the sporting event, but he will give the vaccinated better access.

We are still going to make room for people who are unvaccinated,” Dolan said. “But honestly, we are going to favor the vaccinated.”

Dolan says he has not yet figured out how to prove that attendees are fully vaccinated. Cuomo says ticket holders might  be asked to produce their proof of vaccination card, or the state’s phone app that confirms vaccination.

Cuomo says part of the intent of the CDC rules changes is to provide more incentives to become vaccinated.

’So there are benefits to being vaccinated,” Cuomo sad.

52% of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, but the rate of vaccinations has slowed. Health experts say 70% is needed to achieve herd immunity from the virus.

The governor says he realizes that new rules represent a “radical change” from what scientists and government leaders have been telling the public for the past 15 months. He says it’s still OK to continue to wear a mask, if you feel more comfortable doing so. 

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.