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Q&A: What the new mask guidance means to you

Spectators wear masks in the stands at a

Spectators wear masks in the stands at a football game between Farmingdale High School and Syosset in April.   Credit: James Escher

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday issued new guidelines that allow fully vaccinated people to no longer wear masks or practice social distancing in most situations.

Does this mean I can completely stop wearing my mask if I’m vaccinated? No. The CDC says states, localities and businesses — including workplaces — can continue to require masks.

How much of this will New York adopt? Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a statement saying he and state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker are reviewing the new CDC guidelines with health experts and others.

Regardless of the new guidelines, should I still wear a mask in public places indoors? Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease doctor at Northwell Health, recommends it in crowded spaces like supermarkets until the state’s COVID-19 case numbers come down further, because there’s a small chance even a vaccinated person can get sick from COVID-19.

How will the new rules be enforced? It’s unclear whether vaccinated people will have to show their vaccination cards or the state’s electronic Excelsior Pass to prove they’re vaccinated.

Won’t people just be able to say they’re vaccinated even if they’re not? A big question is whether there will be criminal or civil liabilities for those who lie about their vaccination status and then are found to be the source of a coronavirus infection, Hirsch said.

Will the state’s sports-venue guidelines be affected? The current guidelines allow vaccinated people to sit masked in sections with full capacity but require unvaccinated people to stay socially distanced. It's unclear if vaccinated fans will still need masks.

What about big indoor gatherings, such as an Islanders game? Masks are required under state rules, and it’s unclear if that will change. The CDC no longer recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in crowds outdoors, but it’s unclear whether there will be specific guidance for large indoor crowds.

If parents are vaccinated but their kids are not — including kids under 12, who still are not eligible — do kids need to wear masks even if their parents don’t have to? That’s still unclear. But a CDC spokesman said that for now children under 12 should still wear masks and practice social distancing. The CDC is planning soon to update its guidance on summer camps, which now requires masks for vaccinated adults and children, the spokesman said.

How will this affect mask-wearing and social distancing in schools? Could there be situations in which vaccinated students don’t need to wear masks but unvaccinated kids do? That’s also still unclear and may depend on state rules.

What happens when someone who is vaccinated no longer is considered protected by the vaccine? That’s uncertain. Scientists still do not know how long the vaccine protects people because it is still new.

SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Associated Press, Washington Post, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office, Dr. Bruce Hirsch