Legal Analysis on Executive Order Allowing Businesses to Deny Entry to People Without Masks

Following a statewide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, New York State has begun phases of reopening. As counties in Western New York are on the brink of entering Phase II of reopening, businesses continue to assess how to address health concerns.

In public briefings, Governor Andrew Cuomo has stressed the importance of all citizens wearing face masks when in public to help prevent further spread of COVID-19. This week, Governor Cuomo issued a new executive order, which allows New York State businesses to deny entry to customers who are not wearing a mask or face covering.

As part of the ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, WGRZ 2 On Your Side recently aired a story on Governor Cuomo’s new executive order. Reporter Jackie Roberts explored the legal rights of customers and how this executive order may be enforced. Attorney Barry Covert was interviewed to provide legal analysis for this report.

In WGRZ’s report, attorney Barry Covert indicated that prior to Governor Cuomo’s executive order, private businesses in New York State already had the right to deny access to customers who were not wearing a mask. Mr. Covert said “they were able to preclude an individual from entering into the store without the mask yesterday, last week, a month ago. This really doesn’t change anything.” Mr. Covert continued “You can preclude individuals from entering a store for any reason you want as long it’s not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” 

A Captain with the Buffalo Police Department was also interviewed for the WGRZ’s story on Governor Cuomo’s new executive order. He stated that anyone who violates a private business’ mask requirement and refuses to leave the business’ premises could be brought up on trespassing charges.

The report concluded with Barry Covert discussing the message that Governor Cuomo’s new executive order sends to the public. Mr. Covert stated “it gives some further support to the business owners, so that the public at large knows, and especially those who do not want to wear a mask but enter into private business establishments, that the owners of the establishments are well within their rights to preclude you for not wearing a mask.”

Click the video below to watch WGRZ’s full report.