Cuomo Pushes to Make Mask-Wearing Part of New York’s Culture

New Yorkers must accept the new reality of wearing masks in public in order for the virus to stop spreading, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The state is delivering 1 million masks to New York City, the only state region still on lockdown, and enlisting celebrities and Brooklynites Chris Rock and Rosie Perez to help spread a message that masks are socially acceptable. Cuomo said there are 225 testing sites in New York City, many underused, and encouraged people to go.

Cuomo said he will sign an executive order on Thursday allowing store owners to deny entry to people who refuse to wear masks. Business owners have a right to protect themselves and their customers, he said at a news briefing in Brooklyn.

“We have to culturize the masks,” said Cuomo, whose face covering bore the New York Mets colors. “It’s just a couple of months, when you think about it.”

New York City has met five of the state’s seven metrics for reopening. It still needs to increase contact tracing and the number of available hospital beds.

“The state has a set of rules and metrics to reopen that apply to New York City, just like they apply to every other region,” Cuomo said. “We have to make more progress on some of the metrics.”

The state is helping to increase awareness and testing availability, particularly in the city’s outer boroughs. Antibody test results show a 45% infection rate in Brooklyn’s Flatbush and 41% in Brownsville, compared with 19.9% for the overall city population.

“I’m not going to open any region that I don’t believe is safe,” Cuomo said.

Statewide, New York had more than 366,000 cases and 23,600 fatalities as of May 27. Hospitalizations are declining, and daily fatalities were below 100 for a fourth day, after peaking at more than 700 in April.

The state has sent 9 million masks to New York City, including today’s 1 million. It also has worked with Northwell Health, local churches and the New York City Housing Authority to educate residents and increase testing and health-care services in those hot spots.

“Those who are not adhering to the guidelines, just know that you are disrespecting” loved ones and neighbors, said Perez. She and Rock joined Cuomo at his briefing, wearing masks and plastic gloves.

Rock said he’s seen only about 40% of the people in his Brooklyn neighborhood wearing a mask. The issue is predominately with young people, Rock and Cuomo said.

“It’s sad that our health has become a sort of political issue,” Rock said. “It’s a status symbol almost, to not wear a mask.”

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