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New York COVID restrictions: opening and conditions in restaurants, cinemas, businesses and gyms.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing that state-imposed covid-19 restrictions will be lifted on businesses 19 May accelerating the reopening of New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing that state-imposed covid-19 restrictions will be lifted on businesses 19 May accelerating the reopening of New York.

Just days after Bill de Blasio announced the "Summer of New York City” dropping restrictions in the city 1 July, Governor Andrew Cuomo one-upped him moving the reopening forward by over a month. Joining New York in the move are the neighboring states of Connecticut and New Jersey.

Businesses will be able to operate at full capacity starting 19 May for the first time since restrictions were put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic last year. Additionally, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will resume 24-hour subway service on 17 May.

Restrictions on restaurants, retail stores, offices and more will be relaxed

Restaurants, retail stores, theaters, museums, barber shops, gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to operate at full capacity starting 19 May. However, Cuomo said that businesses will still need to conform to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on social distancing, mask wearing and other applicable health protocols.

Restaurants can get around the spacing restrictions if barriers between tables are erected. Likewise, events venues won’t need to conform with the social distancing rule if they require people to show proof of vaccination or a negative covid-19 test.

For venues like sports competitions, performing arts and live entertainment, and catered receptions, the limit of 500 people outdoors or 250 people indoors can be exceeded as well if all attendees over the age of four can show proof of full vaccination status or recent negative covid-19 test result and the venue can accommodate for the six-foot rule. Large-scale venues will see capacity restrictions eased but still be limited to 30 percent capacity at indoor venues and 33 percent at outdoor venues and health protocols will still apply according to the announcement.

In Connecticut all remaining business restrictions including those on capacity limits at large event venues in the state will be eliminated on 19 May.

How you can show proof of vaccination or negative covid-19 test in New York

New York is the only state currently that has approved and is using a covid-19 vaccine passport for digital certification of a negative covid-19 test or proof of vaccination. The Excelsior Pass allows businesses to check if people attending events are vaccinated or have a negative covid-19 test within a certain time frame. Using the pass is voluntary but businesses may require customers to present some proof of vaccination to gain access to an event.

The relaxed restrictions come on the heels of previous easing of rule

Just a week ago, Cuomo had announced that New York City indoor dining would increase to 75 percent capacity beginning 7 May to align the city with the state limitations. On that date hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services would also be allowed to up capacity to 75 percent, while New York City gyms and fitness centers could operate at 50 percent as of 15 May.

The changes to restrictions come as a surprise to some

Cuomo in his announcement was conscious of the fact that immediately restarting operations might not be practical or make economic sense for some businesses. The news took Broadway by surprise as it was assumed that controls would remain in effect for several more months. The Broadway League has said that tickets for theatrical performances there are cancelled through 30 May. It’s expected they will probably not resume until September due to the complications of getting productions up and running.

Why are restrictions in New York being eased?

Although New York City and the surrounding area was once the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, there has been much progress made in vaccinating the population. "New Yorkers have made tremendous progress," Cuomo said. "It's time to readjust the decision made on the science and on the data."

During the press conference Cuomo used the steady drop in the positive coronavirus test rate and hospitalizations across the state as proof that it was time to begin the reopening process. The covid-19 positivity rate has declined by 50% over the last month, while over the same period hospitalizations decreased by 37%.

“life should be returning to normal. You’re vaccinated. And it’s an incentive to be vaccinated,” Cuomo said to encourage more people to go out and get vaccinated. Currently 6.4 million doses of vaccine have been administered to the more than 8 million residents of New York City. Statewide almost 47 precent of the population has received at least one dose, with just under 36 percent of the state fully vaccinated.