Days after Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order directing employers to supply masks to all essential workers who come into contact with the public, the Governor announced on Wednesday, April 15 that all New Yorkers must don a face mask/covering when in public, if they are unable to remain six feet away from those around them. The executive order will take effect following a three-day grace period.
“I applaud the Governor for continuing to take action to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus, and protect the health of the public,” Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. stated. “Facial coverings have been shown to reduce rates of transmission of COVID-19, and is a precaution many New Yorkers have already been taking. Requiring these coverings in public and in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained is necessary in ensuring the protection of public health and continuing to slow the spread of the virus.”
Throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, face masks have been a point of contention. Originally the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had recommended that only healthcare workers, “people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms,” and healthy individuals that are taking care of someone who has the Coronavirus should wear a face mask. Later on, after studies found that a significant number of individuals with Coronavirus do not exhibit symptoms and even those who don’t develop symptoms right away can transmit the virus to others prior to exhibiting symptoms, the CDC changed its stance, advising that “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
The CDC notes that cloth face coverings should: “fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face; be secured with ties or ear loops; include multiple layers of fabric; allow for breathing without restriction; and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.”
Last week Southampton Village enacted an executive order that mandates those who enter grocery stores or any venue that deals with food sales and/or distribution must don a face mask or face covering.
While the Coronavirus may finally be starting to plateau in New York, 11,571 persons tested positive for COVID-19 on April 14 alone, according to the New York State Department of Health COVID-19 Tracker. That was nearly double the number from the previous day (7,177 persons tested positive on April 13 – however some testing sites were closed due to the weather). “This is going to take us working together. … Just because those numbers are flattening, it’s no time to relax. We’re not out of the woods,” Governor Cuomo stated during his daily press briefing. “In this reopening, we could lose all the progress we made in one week if we do it wrong. We have a number of challenges ahead. We have to figure out how to do this.”
As of April 14, there are 22,634 confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Suffolk County, with 239 in Southold, 228 in Riverhead, 5 in Shelter Island, 322 in Southampton, and 100 in East Hampton.
“The big question for everyone right now is when do we reopen the economy, but first we need to make sure we have a smart, safe and coordinated plan in place to do it without risking public health,” Governor Cuomo said. “The keys to reopening the economy are continuing to limit the spread of the virus and ramping up antibody testing. I am going to issue two executive orders – one directing employers to provide essential workers with a mask to wear when they are interacting with the public, and one to expand the number of people who are eligible to conduct the antibody test. These measures will be key to getting people back to work and making sure they are protected when they do go back.”
Those interested in learning how to make their own face covering or mask can watch tutorials on the Rogers Memorial Library’s Instagram (@rogersmemoriallibrary) or visit www.cdc.gov.