Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his decision not to wear a mask at an indoor press conference held Monday in New York City where he called for tougher enforcement of state rules requiring masks and social distancing.
The governor and five Cuomo aides didn't wear masks while addressing reporters in a conference room at his Manhattan office, though they wore masks as they entered the room. Pictures posted on social media showed journalists wearing masks sitting close to one another in the relatively tight space.
The briefing was held in a room considerably smaller than the more spacious Executive Chamber in Albany, where Cuomo often held his televised coronavirus briefings throughout the spring.
The governor's aides asked journalists to try and stay 6 feet apart, but some challenged him during the news conference about his decision not to don a mask in the enclosed space. Cuomo responded that it was fine because he was more than 6 feet away.
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“We have sat in these seats six feet apart socially distanced without masks since COVID started," Cuomo said. “The rule is six feet apart. And that’s what we do.”
A reporter asked Cuomo about evidence that COVID-19 can spread through aerosol transmission.
“The rule is six feet social distancing," Cuomo said. "Do you want to change the rule?”
“If there’s new data than we should come up with a new law," Cuomo said.
The main purpose of the briefing was to announce that the state was approving New York City's plan to temporarily close schools in neighborhoods where the number of coronavirus cases has spiked.
Cuomo complained about a lack of enforcement in the city of rules limiting capacity of gatherings in indoor spaces and requiring people to wear masks in situations where they cannot stay 6 feet away from other people.