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Reopening of New York from COVID-19 takes major step forward this week

Attractions such as Adventureland will no longer be

Attractions such as Adventureland will no longer be subject to capacity restrictions beginning Wednesday, beyond the six-foot social distancing requirement. Credit: Newsday/Reginald Lewis

The reopening of New York takes a major step forward this week as most COVID-19 pandemic capacity restrictions are lifted on Wednesday.

That means businesses ranging from retail stores to hair salons, fitness centers and family entertainment centers will no longer have to operate on a percentage of capacity. However, they will have to maintain the social distancing requirement of six feet.

Churches, mosques, synagogues and other houses of worship are included.

Beginning Wednesday, indoor social gatherings can expand to 250 people from the current 100 and outdoor residential gatherings will be permitted for up to 500 people, with social distancing required.

What to Know

  • Businesses ranging from retail stores to hair salons, fitness centers and family entertainment centers and houses of worship will no longer have to operate on a percentage of capacity. However, they will have to maintain the social distancing requirement of six feet.
  • Beginning Wednesday, indoor social gatherings can expand to 250 people from the current 100 and outdoor residential gatherings will be permitted for up to 500 people, with social distancing required.
  • The MTA has extended its free COVID-19 vaccination program at four sites through May 22.

Large scale events, such as sports, performing arts and live entertainment are not subject to capacity limits if either attendees show they are vaccinated or have a recent negative COVID-19 test. The venues can allow unvaccinated people by observing social distancing guidelines.

But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has not said when New York will follow the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks in most settings other than on public transportation and in health care facilities. On Thursday, he said the CDC recommendation was under review.

People in New York over the age of two are still required to wear masks or face coverings when they are out in public and unable to socially distance themselves from others.

Also beginning on Monday, the New York City subway system will return to 24-hour service after being partially closed down overnight for cleaning.

MTA chairman Patrick Foye said at news conference on Sunday that the MTA has become more efficient at cleaning the trains during the pandemic and will continue an aggressive cleaning schedule.

The MTA has extended its free COVID-19 vaccination program at four sites through May 22. Vaccinations for riders and transit employees will be available at the Penn Station 34th Street corridor and at Broadway Junction in Brooklyn from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., as well as at Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall and at the East 180th Street Station in the Bronx from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The sites can serve up to 300 people a day on a walk-in, first-come first-served basis with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, officials said

The rate of new COVID-19 cases across the state remains low, with just 1% of test results reported on Saturday being positive, Cuomo said in a statement on Sunday.

Of the 1,561 new cases reported on Saturday, 90 were in Nassau County and 95 were in Suffolk County. There were 33 deaths reported due to COVID-19, including one in Nassau and two in Suffolk.

Cuomo warned people about getting too confident because of the low numbers and encouraged everyone to get vaccinated.

Dr. Bruce Hirsch, attending physician in infectious at diseases at Northwell Health said seeing the ravages of COVID-19 on patients in hospitals has convinced him that people should still be cautious.

"There's still COVID in the community," Hirsch said. 'It's good news that the vaccines are as effective as they are. But some people are still not getting vaccinated."

Hirsch said being outdoors with social distancing is"fantastic" but being indoors at a location without good ventilation is still a risk.

On Saturday, Cuomo said about half of all New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The most recent figures released Sunday show about 9.9 million people in the state have received at least one dose of the vaccine and1.2 million people received at least one dose of the vaccine on Long Island and 1 million have completed their vaccine series.

The number of vaccinations in New York and across the country has slowed in recent weeks. While many of the elderly, vulnerable and people eager to be vaccinated received their inoculations already, health officials are now left trying to convince people who are reluctant.

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to include children between the ages of 12 and 15. Those vaccinations started on Thursday in New York.

Hirsch encouraged everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.

"We need a little bit more of that community spirit of caring not just for yourself but the people around you," he said. "We do not have very high rates of vaccination and this COVID will smolder, will continue to evolve. We are all worried about future strains."

With Vera Chinese

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