The city will distribute 7.5 million free face coverings to New Yorkers in parks, grocery stores, public housing, and near transit, ramping up an earlier effort launched last week. During a press briefing on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said “wherever you turn, you’re going to be offered a face covering,” over the next few weeks. Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring New Yorkers to wear a face mask or face-covering in public spaces where social distancing is not possible.
The masks, which consist of 5 million three-ply nonmedical masks and 2.5 million cloth coverings, will be handed out at public housing developments, at Mitchell Lama affordable housing buildings, at the grab-and-go food sites at city schools, at the Staten Island ferry, and anywhere city employees are enforcing social distancing measures.
“I think it’s going to make things easier and easier for New Yorkers who want to follow these rules and want to keep people safe,” de Blasio said on Monday. “That is clearly the vast majority of the people of this city.”
The city launched an interactive map that marks locations where free masks will be distributed and during which times. New Yorkers in every borough can find free masks at dozens of public sites, through May 11. Find a distribution site closest to you, here.
The 1,000 city employees who will enforce social distancing measures will come from the Office of Special Enforcement, the Parks Department, the Sherrif’s Department, the Fire Department, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Sanitation.
Last week, de Blasio reminded New Yorkers that face coverings must be worn in grocery stores and pharmacies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The mayor said owners and managers of the store can legally ask those without masks to leave, and also call the police to help with compliance.
“No one goes into a grocery store, a supermarket, or pharmacy without a face covering on,” he said. “If you try to, the people in the store have every right to send you right back the other way, out. And we will back them up 100 percent.”
New Yorkers could face fines up to $1,000 for breaking social distancing rules, de Blasio announced earlier this month, only if repeated warnings are ignored.
On Tuesday, Cuomo announced a new competition that asks New Yorkers to submit videos that encourage others to wear masks in public. The winning submission will be used in a public service announcement.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on April 30, 2020 and has since been updated to include the increased number of free face coverings being distributed by the city.
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