CAPITAL REGION — With COVID-19 rates continuing to drop across the state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday said outdoor amusement parks can open this spring, with capacity limits, and overnight summer camps will also be allowed in 2021.
Outdoor amusement parks, such as Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, were prohibited from opening at all last year to prevent the spread of COVID, but will be allowed to re-open on April 9, but with a 33-percent limit on their maximum capacity, Cuomo said.
Indoor family entertainment centers and places of amusement can open with a 25-percent capacity limit beginning Friday, March 26. Both kinds of venues must have reopening plans approved by their local health departments, and visitors must submit to health screenings and be masked while on their properties. Surfaces at those properties will also need to be disinfected frequently.
“In New York, we base our decisions on the science and data and adjust as the virus adjusts,” Cuomo said. “With continued decreases in the infection and hospitalization rates, we have been able to take steps toward beginning our post-COVID recovery and we are excited to now be in a place where we can bring back our recreational industries with safety protocols in place.”
Additionally, day and overnight summer camps can begin to plan for reopening this summer. Cuomo said the state Department of Health will issue specific reopening guidance, including details on timing, in the coming weeks.
“We are thrilled about today’s announcement that we can reopen our gates and invite guests back to our property for what will surely be an incredible summer,” said Jason Lee, a spokesman for Six Flags Great Escape. “We are grateful for the support and confidence that both Warren County and state government officials have in our reopening plans, which prioritize the health and well-being of our guests and team members.”
Lee, who noted that an open park provides as many as 1,000 jobs, said more details will be released on Friday.
The news comes as trends in hospitalizations, test-positivity and deaths from COVID are all moving in the right direction.
As of Wednesday, the total COVID hospitalizations in the state were 6,574, down nearly 30 percent from the early January high. The statewide test positivity rate was 3.58 percent on Tuesday. The Capital Region’s seven-day average test positivity rate has fallen to 2.1 percent, according to the state Department of Health.
Cuomo also announced that a second mass vaccine site will open in Albany at the Washington Avenue Armory. He said the location, to be operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state, is specifically intended to help the state reach Black and other minority communities, which has lagged the white population in getting vaccinated. It will open in early March.
The established state vaccination site at the University at Albany has been among the most-difficult to schedule an appointment at, according to members of the public who have tried — a situation that may be due to high demand.
“With our legacy as a former New York National Guard Armory, the Armory is ready to serve the Empire State in its time of need,” Albany Armory officials said in a statement. “The Armory’s location right in Downtown Albany is accessible by public transit and walkable from many of Albany’s neighborhoods, making for an ideal central location for socially vulnerable communities as noted by Governor Cuomo.”
Late Wednesday, Cuomo announced that a two-day “pop-up” vaccination clinic will be held Friday and Saturday at the Schenectady City Mission, as part of outreach to marginalized people. At the time of the announcement, all appointments had already been taken.
In other developments:
— Saratoga County announced it will start compiling a list of people interested in getting vaccinated on its website, saratogacountyny.gov. Putting one’s name on the list won’t guarantee getting a vaccine, but county Public Health Services will use the list to try to match eligible people to known vaccine appointments. Information such as age and medical condition will be kept confidential.
“As Public Health continues their aggressive distribution of COVID vaccines, and as vaccine availability is expected to increase in the coming months, it is essential that we have a centralized and confidential system for reaching eligible residents,” said Supervisor Tara Gaston, D-Saratoga, chairperson of the county Health Committee.
— With the prospect of warmer weather ahead, the Saratoga Springs City Council agreed to allow restaurants in the city to resume expanded outdoor dining, which lets restaurants use space in sidewalks and in public alleys, starting March 15. Expanded outdoor dining helped city restaurants survive since June, when indoor dining resumed, but with capacity restrictions.
— U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam, sent a letter Wednesday to the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna to formally request information and guidance on why emergency production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations are not moving faster, and what Congress and the federal government could do to remove barriers.
“New York’s large population of vaccine-eligible individuals and our established network of vaccination sites that are fully prepared to administer the shots at a rapid pace continue to surpass the state’s supply of vaccines,” Tonko wrote. “We are positioned to make the most of any increase in supply, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to help accelerate vaccine production and significantly expand distribution in my home district and across the nation.”
A Congressional subcommittee on which Tonko serves will be holding a hearing next week on how to expand vaccine production and distribution.
— The city of Albany, which canceled the 2020 St. Patrick’s Day Parade last year as the county saw its first COVID cases, announced that the 2021 parade will also be canceled, with a virtual event taking its place.
“I was hopeful that this year would present better circumstances, but unfortunately we must continue to follow COVID protocols and do our part to deter large gatherings and continue to flatten the curve,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “Despite the different look of this year’s parade day, I encourage you to enjoy the virtual celebration that the Parade Committee has put together for this year.”
There were 109 deaths reported statewide for Tuesday — consistent with other days this week — but nearly half of the daily number from mid-January. Albany, Fulton and Montgomery counties each recorded three more deaths, and Rensselaer County one additional death, according to Cuomo’s office.