Businesses can bar customers without masks

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

New York business owners will be permitted to deny entry to their store if a potential customer is not wearing a mask or face covering, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

Cuomo, at his daily coronavirus briefing in Brooklyn, said he will sign an executive order explicitly granting businesses the right to require people to cover their face in order to enter.

The Democratic governor signed an order April 15 requiring those in New York State to cover their nose and mouth in public when unable to maintain six feet of social distance in an effort to cut down on the spread of the coronavirus.

His latest executive order will expand the order to give business owners more power to require masks in their shops in an effort to clear up any potential legal questions whether such a requirement violates anti-discrimination laws. 

The governor said he believes the order will help “reduce conflict” between store owners and potential customers, which have led to several viral confrontations on social media in recent weeks. 

“That store owner has the right to protect themselves,” Cuomo said Thursday. “That store owner has the right to protect the other patrons in the store.” Cuomo did not say whether there would be an exemption for those with health concerns that prevent them from wearing a mask, as his previous order included. 

Cuomo’s latest order, which had not been made public as of noon last Thursday, comes as retail stores across much of upstate New York wait for the green light to reopen their doors to customers, which could come as soon as Friday.

Five New York regions — the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, Central New York, Southern Tier and North Country — are on the verge of entering Phase 2 of the state’s four-phase reopening process, which would allow retail shops to resume in-person operations with social distancing measures in place. Those regions entered the first phase of the process on May 15. 

Cuomo had previously said he wanted to allow about two weeks between phases. But the governor did not mention during his briefing Thursday when those regions will be able to enter Phase 2.