The sun rises behind the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, as seen from Jersey City, N.J., on March 7. New York and Connecticut are ending mask mandates Wednesday and New Jersey is removing limits on indoor gatherings. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
May 19 (UPI) -- New York, New Jersey and Connecticut began easing pandemic-related restrictions on Wednesday in a region that became one of hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus last year.
New York and Connecticut are ending mask mandates that have been in place for much of the past year, while New Jersey is removing limits on indoor gatherings.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that his state will adopt the new federal mask and social distancing guidance for fully vaccinated people, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His statewide order requiring masks had been in place since April 2020 and required everyone over the age of 2 to wear a mask when in public.
New Jersey will keep its indoor mask mandate.
"I don't want to get burned. I don't want to go back," New Jersey Gov. Philip Murphy said Monday, according to The New York Times.
Murphy lifted the state's outdoor mask mandate on Monday.
The CDC issued updated guidance last week that says fully vaccinated people don't need to wear masks outdoors or indoors in most cases.
Private businesses can still impose their own mandates and face coverings are still required in some settings like public transit, nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities and schools.
People who are not yet fully vaccinated or whose immune systems are compromised should continue to wear masks and socially distance, Cuomo said.
"We have to reopen. We have to reopen smart, with a cautious eye. We have to get back to life and living and we have to do it the way New Yorkers do it. Unvaccinated people should continue to wear a mask and social distance, but if you are vaccinated you are safe -- no masks, no social distancing," Cuomo said, according to WNBC-TV.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he will lift all coronavirus restrictions for the city on July 1.
Starbucks, Target and CVS are among the companies that no longer require masks in their stores for vaccinated customers unless it is required by law.
The governors of all three states had previously announced that the restrictions would be lifted on May 19. They include removing capacity restrictions at restaurants, theaters, museums, gyms and other venues.
Under the new rules, businesses are only limited by the space available for customers to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet. Restaurants can separate customers by less than 6 feet if there are barriers between tables.
The easing of capacity restrictions includes Broadway, but show producers say they need time to advertise and market before the grand reopening on Sept. 14. Before the end of the year, about 30 shows are planning to begin performances in Broadway theaters.
Under the new rules, the indoor social gathering limit in New York will increase from 100 to 250 people and the outdoor limit of 25 people expands to 500. The indoor residential gathering limit rises from 10 to 50 people.
Large-scale indoor event venues in New York can now operate at 30% capacity, up from 10%. Large-scale outdoor event venues can operate at 33%.
National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo