New York will allow more people to return to offices, gyms, casinos and outdoor stadiums in May, while a major state fair is coming back in August, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday, citing declining COVID-19 positivity levels and increasing vaccinations.
Starting May 15, offices will be able to expand capacity from 50% to 75% of their facilities, while gyms and fitness clubs outside New York City will be able to go from 33% to 50% capacity, he said. At the same time, casinos and gaming venues will be able to go from 25% to 50%.
Starting May 19, outdoor stadiums will be able to increase capacity from 20% to 33%. The state previously had announced that large arenas and event venues could increase attendance to 25%, starting that same day.
Cuomo said further reopenings are likely if the COVID-19 and vaccination trends hold.
"The arrows are all pointed in the right direction," he said. "We just have to keep the arrows pointed in the right direction."
He added that "as our positivity is coming down, and our vaccination is going up, you’re going to see more reopening."
What to know
New York is relaxing capacity requirements for various businesses, moving toward reopening after declining COVID-19 positivity and growing vaccinations.
Starting May 15: Offices increase capacity from 50% to 75%; gyms and fitness clubs outside New York City increase capacity from 33% to 50; casinos and gaming increase capacity from 25% to 50%.
Starting May 19: Outdoor stadiums increase capacity from 20 to 33%.
Businesses welcome expanded capacity
Planet Fitness, which has more than a dozen gyms on Long Island, said Cuomo’s move will allow them to provide more members "with the fitness experience they are looking for."
"The pandemic has negatively impacted the health of New Yorkers in many ways both physically and mentally, and we encourage everyone to get moving and experience all the benefits that exercise offers," the company said in a statement.
Crunch Fitness, which has four locations on the Island, said they were grateful for the increased capacity but disappointed that city locations were excluded.
"Our gyms are prepared to comply and work with our member base to provide everyone the opportunity to come back and work out in a clean and safe environment," Crunch Fitness said in a statement. "We were undoubtedly disappointed that our New York City locations were not included in this phase, but are very excited to allow more members through our doors across New York State."
Owners of office space also praised the move.
"The office is much more than just a physical space for work — it’s an ecosystem of collaboration, mentorship, creativity, commerce, and so much more," RXR Realty, one of the largest commercial landlords in the region, with Uniondale and New York City offices, said in a statement. "Expanding office capacity is a welcome development as we move toward a ‘new normal’ safely and responsibly, and we look forward to a full reopening in the coming months."
Casino owners also were generally pleased.
Glen White, a spokesman for Delaware North, the Buffalo company that manages Jake’s 58, the Islandia video-lottery casino, said the governor’s decision will benefit the Suffolk economy.
"Our patrons have demonstrated they want to visit Jake’s 58 because they are comfortable with our ‘Play It Safe’ health and safety program," White said. "On the heels of being allowed to expand our hours earlier this month, this will help us increase the funds we are generating for the local economy, the county and state education."
Suffolk OTB announced earlier this month that it’s in talks to buy Jake’s 58, including the 228-room casino, from Delaware North for an estimated $120 million.
'The fair must go on'
Cuomo, speaking Monday morning from a livestreamed news conference at the State Fair site in Syracuse, announced that the fair will return this year after it did not open in 2020 amid the pandemic.
The state fair, the oldest in the United States and the third-largest in the country, will operate in a modified manner to avoid spread of the virus, Cuomo said.
The Aug. 20-Sept. 6 event will have four separate areas so officials can better gauge and control crowd size, keeping crowd sizes at about 50% of capacity, he said.
The concert area will abide by the state's concert protocols under coronavirus restrictions, he said.
But he declared that "the fair must go on," adding that "the state fair is special. It's special to all New Yorkers. It's a great institution."
He said that since the fair is months away, guidelines likely will be adjusted by late August with more capacity and flexibility allowed, to reflect changes in the COVID-19 situation.
Continued progress against the virus
The statewide seven-day positivity level was at 2.13% Monday, which Cuomo said was the lowest level since Nov. 8. The seven-day positivity figure also has decreased on Long Island and New York City, with New York City at 2.2% and Long Island at 2.3% according to the latest state metrics.
The number of new confirmed cases in Sunday was 222 in Nassau County, 237 in Suffolk County, and 1,343 in New York City.
A total of 41 people died in the state on Sunday of causes related to the virus, including five in Nassau and three in Suffolk.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Monday that 51% of its population has received at least one vaccine dose. "With vaccine demand and supply finally crossing paths, Nassau County is working diligently with our community partners to fill open appointments," Curran said in a statement.
She added that with the Johnson & Johnson shots back "in our vaccine arsenal" after a recent pause to study blood clot cases, "We are able to resume homebound vaccinations. It’s simple: The quicker we can get residents vaccinated, the sooner we can end the pandemic and return to our normal lives."
In Suffolk, 43.9% of residents had gotten at least one vaccine dose as of late Monday.
New York City has administered 6,174,393 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.
"For comparison purposes, that is more than the entire population of the state of Missouri," de Blasio said. "The numbers keep growing."
All city-run vaccination sites, de Blasio said, are now walk-up and do not require an appointment.
Meanwhile, 51,000 city students who were previously learning virtually returned to the classroom Monday after opting back in, the mayor said.
"It’s another sign of the city’s recovery that our schools are coming back," he said.
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