New Yorkers may encounter inconsistent mask rules

As of Tuesday, June 15, 2021, New York has lifted most pandemic restrictions. Businesses no longer have to follow social distancing rules or limit occupancy but they can choose to continue health and safety precautions — including mask-wearing. And that could lead to confusion and conflicts.

And many businesses didn't have any idea about the governor's announcement until they got phone calls from journalists asking them what they thought. 

Ezra Ishayik was all smiles on Tuesday night. The owner of Mary Arnold Toys on the Upper East Side said Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifting nearly all the state-mandated COVID restrictions is overdue.

"I think it's great. So, I'm going to take [off] my mask right now. I don't need it anymore," he said. "We're not going to require the customers to wear masks. We expect them to wear a mask if they are not vaccinated."

But businesses have the choice of whether to continue requiring masks. So at the Silver Star Diner on Second Avenue, COVID safety protocols are remaining in place for now. 

"It's the customers, we'll leave it up to them. We're going to, I guess, do it slowly," Spiros Kasimis, the manager, said. "I'm not sure exactly how people are feeling right now. They're afraid, some people are not afraid. They're used to the system."

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Some customers just don't trust that those who are not vaccinated will continue to wear masks. Other people we spoke with have mixed reactions to the restrictions being lifted and how it will affect store employees. 

In New York, gyms and fitness studios were among the last to reopen.

"The people coming into my classes are most often asking, 'Do I still have to wear a mask? Do I still have to do this?'" Dance Body Fitness Studios CEO Katia Pryce said. "Really every person coming in is asking those questions, so I am very excited."

Governor's Office Statement Regarding Businesses

"With the removal of the State's minimum standard for reopening, businesses are free to choose to lift all or some restrictions, continue to adhere to the State's archived guidance, or implement other health precautions for their employees and patrons. Businesses are also authorized to require masks and six feet of social distancing for employees and patrons within their establishments, regardless of vaccination status. Any mask requirements that businesses choose to implement must adhere to applicable federal and state laws and regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act." Source: