New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced a major easing of coronavirus restrictions, including the imminent resumption of 24-hour operations on the city’s subway.
The announcement shows how successfully the Big Apple, once the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, has brought the virus under control.
Starting May 19, percentage occupancy limits will be removed for many of the city’s commercial and cultural locations, including shops, restaurants, cinemas and museums, Cuomo said.
These limits currently vary between 33 and 75 percent of capacity.
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Businesses will be allowed to accommodate as many people as they wish as long as they maintain a social distance of six feet, as recommended by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s fully open, about six feet,” Cuomo told reporters. The six-foot rule does not apply if all customers provide proof of vaccination or a negative test.
“All arrows point in the right direction,” he added, highlighting the drop in Covid-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations, which are at their lowest since November, and the rise in vaccination rates.
Outdoor gathering limits will double from 250 to 500 people, while 250 people will be able to meet indoors, up from 100.
Larger gatherings will be allowed if everyone present is either vaccinated or recently tested negative.
The announcement paves the way for famous New York theaters to plan their comeback.
“We look forward to reopening at full capacity and are working to safely welcome audiences and employees to Broadway theaters this fall,” said the Broadway League Trade Association.
Large indoor event venues will be able to operate at 30% of capacity, up from 10% currently, while outdoor sports stadiums will operate at 33%.
Cuomo said underground train services in the Big Apple would resume 24 hours a day on May 17.
In May 2020, when New York was ravaged by disease, services were interrupted overnight to allow the disinfection of trains. Services currently stop working between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.
Monday’s announcement, made in coordination with neighboring states of New Jersey and Connecticut, came as 80,000 city government workers returned to their offices, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio said he hopes New York City can “fully reopen” by July 1.
Many private employers have yet to set a return date, and the business districts of Midtown and Wall Street remain deserted with many employees still working from home.