New Yorkers ordered to ‘wear masks’
New Yorkers have three days to adhere to strict new regulations in which they "must wear masks" when they "go for a walk" or use public transport, by executive order of governor Andrew Cuomo.
In his daily press conference on Wednesday local time, Mr Cuomo said anyone in a situation where they "cannot maintain social distancing" - by keeping a 2.5 metre distance from other people - in public at all times must wear a mask, cloth or bandana over their nose and mouth.
"That's an executive order," he said.
"You're not going to go to jail for not wearing a mask but local government should start to enforce it.
"And people should enforce it if they're standing next to you on the street corner and say: 'where's your mask, buddy?'"
Mr Cuomo said the rules applied statewide to anyone coming into close contact with others, including on public transport or while on "a walk in a neighbourhood where you'd pass people on the sidewalk".
"You have to wear it in those situations," he said.
"We'll give people three day notice to allow compliance.
"And we'll go from there."
The executive order is similar to recommendations already in effect in New York City and will be in force Friday.
"Stopping the spread is everything. How can you not wear a mask when you're going to come close to a person?" Mr Cuomo added. "On what theory would you not do that?" The governor said there will initially be no civil penalties for noncompliance, but he's urging merchants to enforce it among customers.
Though hospitalisations from the outbreak are levelling off locally, New York officials are trying to dramatically reduce transmission rates as the death toll rises. New York recorded 752 deaths Tuesday, for a total of more than 11,000 in just over a month.
Mr Cuomo said the "terrible'" numbers must be considered a depressing step in the right direction despite feeling it was almost disrespectful" to suggest it's "good news" that only 752 lives were lost in a 24 hour period.
"The painful news of our reality day after day, and they are in our thoughts and prayers," he said. "But you see the terrible news, it's basically been flat over the past several days.
"You see a flattening of the curve."
Those figures don't include approximately 3,800 other deaths in New York City during the outbreak that city officials say were probably caused by the virus, but haven't been confirmed by a lab test.
Mr Cuomo's announcement came hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for stores to make customers wear face coverings in order to protect store workers against exposure.
The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
Originally published as New Yorkers ordered to 'wear masks'