Many New Yorkers not shedding masks despite eased COVID-19 rules
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New Yorkers who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 were allowed to ditch their masks in most settings as the state reopened Wednesday — but you wouldn’t have known it in many parts of the Big Apple.
The state on Wednesday officially adopted CDC mask guidance that allow the inoculated to go mostly mask-free — the same day it lifted capacity restrictions restaurants and other venues.
At the Planet Fitness on West 35th Street and Seventh Avenue in Midtown, jabbed gym-goers were officially no longer required to mask-up — but most were still covering their faces, workers said.
“My boss texted everyone this morning that we no longer need to enforce the mask policy,” said Miguel Almanzar, who works the front desk. “We are supposed to let them do what they feel comfortable doing.”
But “hesitant” customers were “still coming with their masks,” he said — chalking it up to lingering “trauma” from the coronavirus crisis that devastated the city last year.
“People are traumatized. I’m still traumatized by this. We have to recondition ourselves to seeing people without masks on not being a threat,” he said.
Many large retailers have also nixed mask requirements for those who’ve had their shots, including Target. But at the chain’s Midtown location, no shoppers were ready to let their faces go free just yet.
“I know other people haven’t been vaccinated and I do not have any information saying I am 100 percent not able to give it to anyone, especially high-risk people,” said Lindsay Luttman, 38, a hospitality worker who was shopping for clothes.
“I do trust the CDC but until I’m 100 percent guaranteed that I’m not going to get sick by other people, I’m wearing my mask — even if it’s only a slight chance that I will get sick.”
And some businesses were still requiring masks for now.
Michelin star-rated chef Daniel Boulud opened seafood restaurant Le Pavillon in Midtown on Wednesday — but said he’ll require all customers to wear masks “until they sit down.”
He said all workers must also wear face covers and that “everybody has to have a certificate of vaccination” during the eatery’s opening night festivities.
Still, some Manhattan restaurant owners were thrilled to finally let customers go mask-free as they were allowed to open at 100 percent capacity after a year of limits on indoor seating that have crippled the industry.
“So long as we can safely have customers without masks who are vaccinated, we are open to making it work,” said Ron Silver, the CEO Bubby’s, which serves American comfort food in Tribeca.
“This has been a long journey, and we’ve implemented strict guidelines that prioritize everyone’s safety from the beginning — so we feel confident continuing to follow the suggested regulations from the DOH, CDC, and local officials.”
And people were breathing easier in other part of the city — as the temperature reached 86 degrees, dozens of Coney Island beach-goers went mask-free while soaking up the sun and strolling along the shoreline.
Despite the relaxed rules, masks are still required in many places in the Empire State, regardless of vaccination status — including public transit, health care facilities, nursing homes and schools.
And while capacity caps have been lifted, venues are expected to keep non-vaccinated patrons 6 feet apart — something the restaurant industry has complained is functionally impossible while operating at 100 percent capacity.
As of Wednesday, 48 percent of all New York City residents had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — and 39 percent were fully vaccinated. Children under 12 are still not eligible to receive the shot.
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