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State easing capacity limits on gyms, hair salons, barbershops; also NYC indoor dining

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday that indoor

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday that indoor dining in the five boroughs will increase to 75% capacity, beginning May 7. In the photo, restaurant patrons eat at a Manhattan eatery operating under limited capacity rules in March. Credit: Sipa USA via AP/ANTHONY BEHAR/SIPA USA

Indoor dining in New York City will expand to 75% capacity next week, bringing it in line with the rest of the state, while hair salons, barbershops and other personal care facilities across the state can be three-quarters filled by May 7, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday.

The announcement comes as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he envisioned the city at "full strength" beginning July 1, with no restrictions whatsoever.

Cuomo said indoor dining in the five boroughs would increase from 50% to 75% capacity beginning May 7, while city gyms and fitness centers will expand to 50% capacity on May 15, bringing them in line with the rest of the state.

"After a long and incredibly difficult fight, New York State is winning the war against COVID-19, and that means it's time to loosen some restrictions put in place to protect the public health and help our local businesses," Cuomo said in a statement. "There's no doubt that restaurants have been among the pandemic's hardest hit businesses, and New York City's thriving restaurant industry has found it challenging to keep staff and maintain profits."

Cuomo added that the state was easing coronavirus-related restrictions on restaurants, personal care services and gyms "to put more money in the pockets of small business owners and working people in New York City, which was hit so hard by the pandemic but, I have no doubt, will come back stronger than ever."

What to know

Indoor dining in New York City will expand to 75% capacity on May 7, while city gyms and fitness centers will expand to 50% capacity on May 15, said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services across the state will expand to 75% capacity, beginning May 7, he announced.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio envisioned a city unburdened by COVID-19 restrictions this summer during a radio interview.

More than one in three New Yorkers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, county and state health officials said.

As COVID-19 rates have steadily declined across the state, Cuomo has loosened capacity limits and reopened more segments of the economy. Most recently, he announced that he would lift the curfew for outdoor restaurants and catered events.

Cuomo also announced he will rescind an executive order establishing the microcluster zones, which placed heightened restrictions on areas that had seen high positivity rates.

The statewide COVID-19 positivity rate Thursday was 1.76%, while the seven-day average was 1.93% — levels that have not been reached since early November, according to state health department data. Long Island's infection rate continued to decline, down to 2.05%, with 289 residents in Suffolk and 229 in Nassau testing positive for the virus.

A total of 2,837 New Yorkers are hospitalized with COVID-19, while 44 people died from the virus Thursday, including four in Nassau and one in Suffolk, the data shows.

For NYC, a July 1 goal

In an appearance on WNYC’s "Brian Lehrer Show" Friday morning, de Blasio envisioned a city unburdened by COVID-19 restrictions this summer. Lehrer questioned whether the city could see no capacity limits at restaurants, thousands of fans packing Madison Square Garden, fully occupied gyms, and Carnegie Hall filled to the rafters.

"That is literally the goal," de Blasio said. "There obviously could be some particular exceptions depending on what the data and the science tell us. Right now, we’re seeing absolutely consistent, striking progress, directly, causally related to the vast number of vaccinations."

De Blasio, who announced the July 1 goal on Thursday, can only offer suggestions under an order Cuomo signed last year seizing control over restrictions from local municipalities.

Speaking hours after de Blasio on Thursday, Cuomo said he would decide "by the science, by the data."

De Blasio said he’s setting the July 1 goal based on the trajectory of vaccination rate, which is up, and infection, hospitalization and death rates, which are headed down.

"The health care indicators are speaking clearly," de Blasio said. "Our health care team analyzed all this and said, ‘Look, we can do this on this timeline.’ "

On the radio Friday, de Blasio pointed to reports that Cuomo has ignored the advice of his top health officials, at least nine of whom have left their jobs, according to The New York Times.

Earlier this year, Cuomo said, "When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts. Because I don’t." De Blasio said Friday that "the governor legendarily doesn’t talk to his health care team, doesn’t trust health care professionals. A lot of them have left because they realized he wasn’t even seeking their guidance, and you know, if he wants to make decisions based on the data and the science, that’s what we’re doing here."

One in three New Yorkers vaccinated

One in three New Yorkers are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as the state continues to make progress in turning the page on the pandemic, Cuomo said.

A total of 34.1%, or 6,795,257 New Yorkers, have completed the vaccination series, including 839,406 on Long Island, state officials said.

"We're making great progress in our efforts to get every New Yorker vaccinated, but the rate of people getting vaccines is slowing," Cuomo said. "The vaccine side is available — it's been tested, it's safe and it won't cost anything to get."

Meanwhile, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced that 50% of eligible county residents had completed the vaccination series. In Suffolk, 41% of the eligible population had completed their vaccination series.

People who receive the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna doses need two doses of vaccine, spaced weeks apart, while those who receive Johnson & Johnson complete their vaccination with one dose.

In addition, 46%, or 9,179,469 New Yorkers, have received at least one dose. They include 1,161,910 Long Islanders, the data shows.

Nassau asking for relaxed swimming rules

With COVID-19 rates on Long Island continuing to decline, Curran wrote to State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on Friday seeking to set expanded capacity for outdoor swimming activities.

Curran contends that capacity restrictions are not feasible for many swim activities that take place annually, such as lessons and conferences. The state has issued limited guidelines for capacity at outdoor municipal pools, prompting Nassau to set its own 25% limits.

"Increasing capacity should not change the health and safety measures in place, and I know our residents will take all precautions necessary to enjoy the summer season at all of Nassau County’s wonderful facilities," Curran wrote.

Meanwhile, Adelphi University announced Friday that it had reversed course and would hold in-person graduation ceremonies at its Garden City campus for both the classes of 2020 and 2021 from May 22 through May 25. The school previously planned to host a virtual graduation on May 24.

In an email to Adelphi students and parents, university officials pointed to an April 12 announcement from Cuomo that permitted schools to host in-person graduation ceremonies, subject to capacity regulations.

"Once this new guidance was released, Adelphi’s Commencement Committee immediately began reexamining our plans with the goal of providing a more traditional commencement experience for our graduates within health and safety restrictions," wrote Cara Terzulli, deputy to the Adelphi provost and the commencement committee co-chair.

Each Adelphi graduate will be allowed to invite two guests to attend their ceremony. Graduates also will be permitted to participate in an "Adelphi Grad Walk" across the University Center ballroom stage for photos.

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