Wednesday could mean real freedom for vaccinated New Yorkers, with caveats

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Vaccinated New Yorkers can go about their lives maskless, under most circumstances, as of May 19, 2021.
Photo by Dean Moses

The end is nigh, but in a good way.

New York City’s on schedule for a full reopening Wednesday, with most COVID-19 regulations lifted across the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said on Tuesday morning that hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at 0% per 100,000 residents in the five boroughs, said that fully vaccinated New Yorkers — who have had both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot — are regaining much of the freedom lost due to the pandemic last year.

“If you’re vaccinated, you win freedom. It’s as simple as that. And the CDC guidance basically says as more and more people become vaccinated, there’s more and more opportunities for that freedom,” de Blasio said. “But it still is very clear about the difference between the outdoor and indoor and certain types of facilities.”

Some of those facilities include those geared toward servicing seniors.

In most cases, the mask mandate for outdoors, restaurants and other activities is going bye-bye as per new mandates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but city Department of Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi urged residents to make good judgement calls nonetheless.

“First, our starting point is that the CDC guidance is based on sound science for fully vaccinated people. But as the Mayor has said, the issue is in the real-world application of the guidance, because you will have mixing of vaccinated and unvaccinated people. If this happens outdoors, it is low risk and masking, and other precautions can be relaxed,” Chokshi said. “But if it happens indoors, my worry is primarily about the spread of the virus among unvaccinated people, this includes children as well as people for whom immunity from vaccination has not fully kicked in. So, I do recommend continued mask use in many indoor settings until even more people are vaccinated. And personally, while I am fully vaccinated, I’ll be keeping my mask on indoors in almost all settings.”

Before mentioning that he himself is fully vaccinated and that the CDC’s new recommendations were based on science, he said that he would continue wearing a mask indoors for the foreseeable future.

While retailers such as Target and Trader Joe’s plans to ditch the mask mandate for those who can prove they are inoculated through either a vaccination card or an Excelsior Pass from the Cuomo administration, state courts, however, will be keeping their mask mandate in place, according to New York Law Journal.

The Tribeca Film Festival and Radio City Music Hall will not require them after Wednesday for those who are fully vaxxed.

Last week, the CDC recommended that individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can walk outside without masks, and go maskless in most indoor settings. The agency still advises wearing masks in confined areas such as planes, trains, buses, and in large public venues such as hospitals and doctor’s offices.

The MTA will be keeping its mask mandate in tact, as per the CDC guidance, touting a 99% compliance among riders during a Monday press conference.

Tuesday afternoon, agency officials celebrated the return of 24-hour service for the benefits it will bring to staff of bars and restaurants as well as patrons who want to return to their social lives with fewer restrictions. Essential workers providing food services have been without this option between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. throughout much of the pandemic.

Governor Andrew Cuomo swiftly adopted the recommendations in cooperation with New Jersey and Connecticut. Unvaccinated or immunocompromised people, however, will need to continue to practice social distancing and mask-wearing, he said.

“The vaccine is safe and effective, but it can only do its job if we take it,” Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday. “It doesn’t matter if most of your friends and family are vaccinated – you also need to do your part and take it so we can all be better protected and defeat this virus once and for all.”

How will this fare in terms of people actually being able to access businesses and events going forward?

According to de Blasio, as of Tuesday, up to 7.6 million New Yorkers have been vaccinated and it is common knowledge that there are about 8.6 million across the five boroughs.

If you ask the Cuomo administration, they will tell you that 8,408,217 across the state have been fully vaccinated with at least 10 million receiving one dose of either Pfizer or Moderna.