This story was reported by Rachelle Blidner, Matthew Chayes, Bart Jones, David Olson and David Reich-Hale. It was written by Jones.
Take me out to the ballgame — and give me a regular seat like in pre-pandemic days.
The Yankees and Mets, along with other outdoor sports, performing arts, live entertainment, and horse and auto racing venues statewide, will be able to create sections for vaccinated people who can sit together with no social distancing, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday.
Those not vaccinated will sit in special sections as well, but with 6 feet of social distancing. All fans will be expected to wear masks.
The new seating arrangement goes into effect May 19, when the venues will be permitted to operate at 33% of capacity.
Children under 16 — who are not eligible yet to be vaccinated — can accompany their families to the events and sit in the vaccinated sections.
Cuomo said allowing vaccinated people to enjoy sitting together should "create an incentive" for others to get their shots, as the state and local governments focus on people hesitant to get inoculated.
Fans at the Yankees and Mets games and other events will "have to provide proof of full immunization status, which can be provided through paper form, digital application or the State's Excelsior Pass," Cuomo said.
The new seating arrangements also will apply to the Long Island Ducks minor league baseball team in Central Islip, where vaccinated fans and their unvaccinated children under 16 can sit in regular seating, while unvaccinated fans will sit in sections with 33% capacity and social distancing of 6 feet, team officials said.
What to know
Fully vaccinated attendees will sit close to each other at large-scale outdoor events, including baseball games at Yankee and Citi Field stadiums, starting May 19. Others need to be distanced 6 feet apart.
Broadway will reopen at full-theater capacity on Sept. 14. Tickets for shows go on sale Thursday.
Event participants in vaccinated sections will have to provide proof of full immunization, either through paper form, digital application, or the State's Excelsior Pass.
With the rate of people in New York getting vaccines slipping, state and municipal officials are looking for ways to boost the amount of shots getting into arms.
The Yankees and Mets said Wednesday they will give free tickets to a limited number of people who come to their stadiums for a game in the next few weeks and get a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine shot on the spot.
In Suffolk County, officials came up with their own ploy: People who get a shot at a county-run center will receive a ticket good for a free alcoholic drink.
Cuomo, appearing with Yankees and Mets representatives at a news briefing, also announced that Broadway shows will be allowed to open at 100% capacity on Sept. 14, with tickets going on sale this week.
He cast the entire state population as a team that needs to defeat the virus.
"Why do we get a vaccine?" Cuomo asked. "Because at the end of the day, you are a Mets fan, you are a Yankees fan, but we are on the same team on this one … The way a team plays together … we either win together or we lose together."
First fans to get shots get rewarded
The Yankees will offer ticket vouchers to the first 1,000 fans who receive their COVID-19 vaccine on each full day of vaccination operations and to the first 700 fans on each half-day of vaccination operations from May 7 through June 6, Cuomo said.
The ticket vouchers can be redeemed for two seats to certain 2021 or 2022 Yankees regular-season home games, subject to availability.
The Mets will offer ticket vouchers to the first 250 fans who receive their COVID-19 vaccine at Citi Field on the day of each Mets home game scheduled from May 24 through June 17. Ticket vouchers can be redeemed for two seats to a 2021 or 2022 Mets regular-season home game.
"It’s convenient, you’re going there anyway," so get the shot, Cuomo said. Then, at the next game, fans can sit in a normal way surrounded by family and friends. "We call that a New York home run."
The two baseball franchises have been operating mass vaccination sites at their stadiums. The Mets do about 2,000 shots a day at Citi Field, the team said.
The Mets said they have found it challenging to get all their players to agree to get the vaccine.
While Randy Levine, president of the Yankees, said his team is above the 85% level suggested by Major League Baseball, Sandy Alderson, president of the Mets, said they are only at 77%.
"We see the kind of resistance within the framework of the team that we see in the public," Alderson said. The team "continues to provide education" to get the remaining players to accept a vaccine shot, he said.
Cuomo said the state's push to return to business is possible because "arrows are pointed in the right direction" with infections decreasing as more people get vaccinated.
But, he said, "We are currently looking at a reduction on the demand for vaccines. That is concerning to me."
More than 16 million doses have been administered in the state, with 9.4 million people receiving at least one dose and 7.3 million people, or 46% of the New York population that is 18 and older, fully vaccinated, the state reported Wednesday.
The daily virus positivity of 1.49% from 165,596 test results on Tuesday was the lowest since Oct. 28. The seven-day average was 1.67% on Long Island and 1.61% in New York City. The number of new confirmed cases Tuesday was 116 in Nassau, 157 in Suffolk, and 1,105 in New York City.
Statewide, 31 people, including one in Nassau and eight in Suffolk, died Tuesday of causes linked to the virus.
Over the last weeks, the state relaxed rules so that anyone could show up at numerous sites for their vaccinations.
Alderson said he does not expect Citi Field to go to full capacity quickly.
"We are committed to a gradual reopening," he said. "There are some people who are just not comfortable being in large groups even at an outdoor facility. From our standpoint we still need some social distancing."
Angelo Gagliano, 56, of Coram, an event manager at Adelphi University, and a Mets fan since birth, was last at a game in 2019, when he was a season ticket holder. He's elated both for the return of in-person games as well as the economic impact of crowds returning.
"I watch it religiously," he said of baseball. "I do a podcast on it."
He started the podcast about six weeks ago — Angie's Angles — and is looking forward to going back into the stadium.
"It's a domino effect. It affects the economy 10,000-fold," he said.
Suffolk: 'Take your shot'
In Suffolk, County Executive Steve Bellone announced Wednesday that residents ages 21 and older who get vaccinated for COVID-19 this month can get a free drink at local breweries and wineries.
The program is available only to people vaccinated at Suffolk County mass vaccination sites.
"Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, and the ‘Lift Your Spirit, Take Your Shot’ initiative provides yet another incentive for our residents to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated," Bellone said in a statement.
People of legal drinking age who get vaccinated in May at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge or Suffolk County Community College campuses in Selden and Riverhead will receive the drink ticket, officials said.
The ticket can be redeemed by May 31 at any of the participating businesses: Del Vino Vineyards in Northport; Raphael Wine in Peconic; Peconic County Brewing in Riverhead; Greenport Harbor Brewing Company in Greenport; Spider Bite Beer Co. in Holbrook; Montauk Brewing Company in Montauk; Twin Fork Beer Company in Riverhead; and Long Island Spirits in Baiting Hollow.
In Hampton Bays, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital is offering first doses of the Moderna vaccine at Hampton Bays Middle School between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday — hours chosen to target those whose work schedules make it difficult to receive shots earlier in the day, said Dr. Fredric Weinbaum, the hospital’s chief medical officer and chief operating officer.
"We’re trying to cater to the hourly wage earners who cannot afford to take off the day to come in to get vaccinated and whose free time" is limited, he said.
The state vaccination site a few miles away at the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University is only open during the day, he said.
Appointments via the hospital website are requested for the Hampton Bays vaccinations, but walk-ins are accepted, Weinbaum said.
"We want to make sure accessibility isn’t a barrier," he said.
Meanwhile, Walmart and Sam's Club said COVID-19 immunizations are now available to customers and associates in all of its pharmacy locations nationwide, including 107 in New York.
CVS on Wednesday said it has started accepting walk-in COVID-19 shot recipients at its pharmacies nationwide, including 517 in New York.
"Now that supply and eligibility have expanded, it's even more important for us to reach underserved and vulnerable populations to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine," said Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president of health and wellness at Walmart. "Widespread vaccination is the only way we will eventually end the pandemic and help our country reopen, and we don't want anyone to get left behind as we enter this new chapter in our fight against COVID-19."
Walmart's outreach includes a nationwide Get Out The Vaccine campaign, which provides education materials at its stores that highlight the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines.
De Blasio: NYC not consulted on reopening
Separately, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Cuomo had not consulted the city on lifting most pandemic restrictions in the region beginning May 19 — rather than July 1, de Blasio’s preferred date, which de Blasio still maintains would be best.
"I know you’ll be shocked, shocked and amazed — I hope you’re sitting down — no he didn’t," he said about not being notified of Cuomo's plans.
"I think what the city announced — July 1, full reopening — makes all the sense in the world, because it gives us some more time to keep an eye on the trends, it gives us some more time to get people vaccinated as we originally planned through the end of June. It’s also a full reopening. That’s what I’m talking about — a reopening with very, very few restrictions," de Blasio added.
"What the governor’s put forward we’ll work with, is the bottom line. … But we’ll keep an eye on it. We’ll keep an eye to make sure that the data and the science tells us everything’s OK."
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