During the pandemic, New York has been heavily impacted by COVID-19 and has had some of the most restrictive COVID-19 guidelines in the country. Recently, the CDC released new guidance in light of the increased availability of vaccines and the numbers of fully vaccinated persons. Pursuant to the updated CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated people can:
Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States.
Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic.
Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible.
Despite the above changes, fully vaccinated people should continue to get tested if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and follow CDC travel requirements and recommendations.
New York Guidelines
Like other states, New York has recently decided to adjust its requirements to be in line with CDC guidelines concerning mask wearing and vaccinations. A brief summary of the updates follow:
Business Mask Rules
Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks. However, the state will authorize businesses to continue to require masks in their establishments, consistent with the CDC guidance. Unvaccinated individuals must wear masks in all public settings.
The Department of Health recommends wearing masks in indoor settings where vaccination status of individuals is unknown. Mask requirements by businesses must adhere to all applicable federal and state laws and regulations. This recommendation applies to commercial settings, including retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services.
Business Capacity Rules
Most business capacities (currently based upon percentage of maximum occupancy) were removed on May 19. Businesses are only limited by the space available for patrons to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet. However, businesses may eliminate the 6 feet of required social distancing (therefore increasing capacity) if all patrons within the establishment present proof of full vaccination status. Another option for the business is for its patrons to provide designated Proof of full vaccination status through paper form, digital application, or the State's Excelsior Pass.
For areas where the vaccination status of individuals is unknown and for patrons who do not present proof of full vaccination status, the required social distance of 6 feet still applies until more residents are fully vaccinated. This change will apply across all commercial settings, except the exempt settings outlined by the CDC.
Small- and Large-Scale Event Rules
Small-scale events will be able to apply the revised business mask and capacity rules. Specifically, for events below the State's social gathering limit of 250 indoors or 500 outdoors, event venues will be able to require masks for all patrons and social distancing of 6 feet will be required between parties of attendees, unless all attendees present proof of full vaccination status. Unvaccinated people should still wear masks and the DOH strongly recommends masks in indoor settings where vaccination status is unknown.
For large-scale events that exceed the State's social gathering limits, event venues will only be limited as follows:
Unvaccinated attendees and attendees who have an unknown vaccination status must be spaced 6 feet apart in assigned sections. Masks will be required in indoor event settings, except while seated and eating or drinking.
Fully vaccinated attendees may be spaced directly next to one another at 100 percent capacity instead of 6 feet apart in assigned sections that are designated solely for fully vaccinated individuals. Masks are optional. Venues must verify vaccination status to take advantage of reduced social distancing requirements.
Children under the age of 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible, and under the age of 16 who have not yet been able to be vaccinated, may accompany, and be seated with a vaccinated adult in a fully vaccinated section.
Proof of full vaccination status can be provided by attendees through paper form, digital application, or the State's Excelsior Pass.
For large-scale events, proof of recent negative COVID-19 test result for attendees who are over the age of four remains required for unvaccinated attendees in indoor event settings above the State's social gathering limit but will become optional in outdoor event settings.
CDC Recommendations for Indoor and Outdoor Settings
Risk of COVID-19 infection is minimal for fully vaccinated people. The risk of transmission from fully vaccinated people to unvaccinated people is also reduced. Therefore, fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. Fully vaccinated people should also continue to wear a well-fitted mask in prisons, homeless shelters, and healthcare settings (including nursing homes). Preventative measures are still recommended for unvaccinated people.
Ultimately, the lessening of restrictions by the State of New York and the relaxed guidance released by the CDC, signal a change in how preventative COVID-19 measures may be approached going forward. Individuals and businesses alike will need to decide to what extent they wish to incorporate these changes into their COVID-19 habits or guidelines.
The State of New York guidelines can be found here.
The CDC guidelines may be found here.
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This Legal Briefing is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this Legal Briefing is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. © 2021 Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow PLLC