NEW YORK — New York is turning the COVID-19 corner and lifting capacity limits for most businesses beginning May 19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
Restaurants, museums, theaters, retail stores and other businesses will be allowed to reopen at full capacity, as long as 6 feet of social distancing space is maintained, in the Empire State as well as neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut.
“It’s a measured reopen. It’s a phased reopening. But we are at a point now where we are going to take a major step forward in reopening ... and it is coordinated regionally, which is smart,” Cuomo said during a press briefing from his Manhattan office.
Despite his talk of a coordinated effort, Connecticut already lifted capacity restrictions for many businesses back in March.
Just last week, Cuomo announced that city restaurants will be able to expand to 75% capacity beginning this coming Friday, May 7.
The incremental reopening strategy has been panned by restaurant owners and other businesses that have struggled to stay afloat as Cuomo slowly eases restrictions.
The new capacity announcement was made as the governor also said subway operations will resume 24-hour service, days after Mayor Bill de Blasio repeated his hope that the city could potentially see a full reopening by July 1 as COVID-19 numbers plummet.
Cuomo last week mocked the mayor’s summer date and said he would like to see the city return to normal earlier.
Sports arenas will continue to operate at 33% capacity, but the governor said he believes there is room to increase attendance as vaccination rates increase.
As previously announced, bars and restaurants will see the current midnight curfew lifted for outdoor dining on May 17 and closing time can go back to 4 a.m. for indoor dining at the end of the month.
The ramped-up reopening comes amid fast-falling COVID-19 and hospitalization rates. New York reported a 1.94% positivity rate on Sunday and 2,539 people remain hospitalized.
Another 37 people died of the virus in the state.
So far, New York has administered 15.7 million doses of vaccine and 7 million people are fully immunized against the deadly virus. Cuomo said the current supply is outpacing demand despite eligibility being opened up to anyone over 16.
He said the state can now focus on immunizing the “youthful and the doubtful” who have yet to get their shots.
“Anybody who can get a vaccine now can just walk in and get it. There is no barrier to a vaccine,” he said.
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