Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wanted New York City to fully reopen by July 1st for what he dubbed the "Summer of New York." But today, Governor Andrew Cuomo trumped him by announcing that most capacity restrictions for businesses, restaurants and cultural venues would be lifted by May 19th.
Cuomo said that this announcement, which was being made in parallel with the governors across the tri-state area, will affect retail stores, gyms and fitness centers, amusement parks, hair salons and barber shops, offices, Broadway theaters, museums, restaurants and bars. He added that individual venues and businesses could make their own decisions about whether they are ready to reopen in May—most Broadway shows, for instance, won't be able to resume productions immediately, but the option is there.
For all these businesses, the CDC's six foot social distancing guidance is still in effect, but if a gathering or venue can prove that all individuals present are fully vaccinated or have had a recent negative COVID test, then the six foot rule doesn't need to apply. The exception to this is if restaurants put up physical barriers between tables, in which case they don't need to worry about the six foot rule.
"So it's six feet, but if you say, I'm only going to allow press in the room who are fully vaccinated, I'm only going to allow people in the restaurant who are fully vaccinated or just took a negative test, then you can go above the six feet," Cuomo explained. He noted that if the CDC changes their recommendation, New York will reassess the six foot rule as well.
Cuomo went on to note that because of this rule, individual businesses could better incentivize people to get vaccinated — venue operators, he suggested, could allow more seats for vaccinated people, who would not be subjected to the six-foot rule, while those who are unvaccinated would still need to socially distance.
Cuomo previously announced that indoor dining would be expanded to 75% capacity in New York City, bringing the city in line with the rest of the state, starting May 7th. Per today's announcement, it will expand to 100% capacity as of May 19th. The midnight curfew will be lifted for outdoor dining beginning May 17th and for indoor dining beginning May 31st.
The indoor catered gathering limit will increase to 250 people, or 500 with negative COVID testing or proof of vaccination, as of May 19th. Residential gathering limits will increase to 50 people as of that date as well.
According to the state, venues that host live arts and entertainment can exceed social gathering limits of 500 people outdoors and 250 indoors "if all attendees over the age of four present either proof of full vaccination status or recent negative COVID-19 test result and the required social distancing can be accommodated."
Outdoor large stadiums and arenas—such as Citi Field and Yankee Stadium—will increase to 33% capacity as of May 19th, but Cuomo said they are looking to expand that.
Cuomo also announced that in conjunction with the reopening of New York, 24-hour subway service will resume as of May 17th for the first time since the early days of the pandemic.
"We think there's a moment of opportunity here, and we're going to build a totally different New York. We're going to reimagine it, we're going to renew it, it's going to be a New York that never existed before," Cuomo said about the post-pandemic revival. "We're going to fix a lot of the things that we should have fixed all along, and it can be a moment for a New York renaissance."