Client Alert 
May 17, 2021

NY Lifts Mask Mandate for Fully
Vaccinated Individuals
To Coincide With the
Lifting of Capacity Restrictions 
Governor Cuomo has made a series of big announcements in response to the tristate area’s vaccination progress and COVID-19 case decline. Below we address the changes coming to New York.

No More Mask Mandate for Vaccinated Individuals

Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced that effective Wednesday, May 19, 2021, New York is adopting the CDC’s mask and social distancing guidance for vaccinated individuals. Specifically, fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask or socially distance in most indoor and outdoor settings – including in restaurants, retail and office spaces. Unvaccinated individuals, under both CDC and state guidance, must wear masks in all settings.

All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks on public transportation and in nursing homes, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, schools and health care facilities.

The Department of Health recommends masks in indoor settings where the vaccination status of individuals is unknown. Businesses must adhere to all applicable federal and state laws and regulations regarding mask requirements, and may voluntarily mandate masks even for fully-vaccinated individuals.  

As a reminder, individuals are considered “fully vaccinated” once 2 weeks have passed since their second dose of a 2-dose vaccine or single dose of a 1-dose vaccine.

Capacity Restrictions Lifted

In addition, as of May 19, 2021, capacity restrictions in most industries will be lifted, subject to ongoing 6-foot social distancing requirements pursuant to CDC guidance. In that regard, capacity will only be limited by the space available for individuals (or permitted groups of individuals) to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet.

However, given that the CDC and NYS have advised that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to maintain social distance, businesses may eliminate the 6-foot social distancing requirements if all individuals present proof of full vaccination.

Changes in capacity notwithstanding, most existing industry-specific health and safety requirements will remain in effect, such as required health screenings, face covering requirements (for unvaccinated individuals), safety measures, collecting contact information for tracing, enhanced disinfection protocols, and ventilation requirements.

Industry-specific changes for New York are summarized below.


  • Indoor dining capacity in NYC is now 75%.
  • Seating at bars is now permitted in NYC as well, subject to applicable distancing requirements. Note that the most recent guidance does not provide for physical barriers to replace distancing requirements for bar seating.
  • Effective today, May 17, the curfew for outdoor dining is lifted.
  • Effective May 19, the indoor dining capacity for all of NYS, including NYC, increases to 100%.
  • Effective May 31, the curfew for indoor dining is lifted.

In-Person and Catered Events

  • Indoor event capacity has now increased to 75% or 150 people, whichever is less, with proof of full vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test result required for indoor events with 101-150 attendees.
  • The social gathering limit for outdoor events is 500 people, without the need for proof of full vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test result.
  • Effective today, May 17, the curfew is lifted for events where all attendees provide proof of full vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test result.
  • Effective May 19:
  • The social gathering limit for indoor events increases to 250 people; indoor event capacity increases to 100% capacity, up to 250 people without proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result.
  • Event capacity, both indoors and outdoors, may exceed the social gathering limit (250 indoors, 500 outdoors) and the 6-foot distancing requirement may be relaxed, subject to 100% capacity limitation, if all attendees provide proof of full vaccination.
  • Effective May 31, the curfew is lifted for all events.

Office Settings

  • Office capacity is now 75%.
  • Effective May 19, office capacity will increase to 100%. 

Retail Stores, Museums, Gyms/Fitness Centers, Personal Care Services and Other Commercial Settings

  • Effective May 19, capacity will increase to 100% at retail establishments, museums, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment venues (including theaters, but not stadiums and arenas), hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services establishments, and most other commercial settings.
  • Though most theaters can reopen at 100% capacity on May 19, Broadway theaters will officially reopen at 100% capacity on September 14.

Casino & Gaming Facilities

  • Casinos and gaming facilities capacity is now 75%.
  • We believe that capacity for casinos and gaming facilities will increase to 100% on May 19 as they were not explicitly excluded from the list of businesses that could increase to 100% capacity (unlike large-scale indoor and outdoor event venues). However, the State has yet to affirmatively confirm this so we recommend monitoring the NY Forward website for updated information.
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If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact any of our Labor & Employment attorneys  or the primary EGS attorney with whom you work.

This memorandum is published solely for the informational interest of friends and clients of Ellenoff Grossman & Schole LLP and should in no way be relied upon or construed as legal advice.