New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order Thursday to authorize businesses to deny entry to people who are not wearing masks or face coverings.
"I've been working to communicate this message about masks and how effective they are. They are deceptively effective. They are amazingly effective, and we've made them mandatory in public settings, public transportation, but when we talk about reopening stores and places of business, we're giving the store owners the right to say, 'If you're not wearing a mask, you can't come in.'" Cuomo said at a news briefing in Brooklyn.
The governor first ordered New York residents to wear face coverings while in public on April 15 during the height of the epidemic.
The executive order took effect on April 17 and said any individual over age two is required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face covering when in a public space and unable to maintain social distance.
The original announcement did not clearly state whether private businesses are allowed to deny entry based on face coverings. A spokesperson for the governor wasn't available for immediate comment on this clarification.
Cuomo also directed all essential businesses to provide face coverings for their employees who work in direct contact with customers or members of the public on April 12.
Private businesses have the right to refuse service and many stores and restaurants in New York have put up signs on their doors asking all customers to wear a mask or face covering upon entering.
"That store owner has a right to protect themselves. That store owner has a right to protect the other patrons in that store," Cuomo said.
As most regions of New York enter phase 1 of the reopening plan, the governor said the state will provide more communication and education about the availability and importance of testing, social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment.
Starting in early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the use of face coverings in public places where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. The CDC says cloth face coverings can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
While public health officials continue to recommend the use of masks in public, face coverings have become a controversial topic. President Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to follow the practice at public events, prompting confusion and a national debate on the efficacy of face coverings.
Trump visited a Ford Motor plant in Michigan last week, where he did not wear a mask during the public part of the tour. Despite a state law and company policy requiring facial coverings, the president said it was "not necessary" to wear one when a reporter asked why he was not wearing a mask.