ALBANY — Offices, gyms, stadiums and casinos can operate at increased but not full capacity, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
The latest incremental return to normalcy for New York’s public places comes amid continued progress against the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected more than 2 million New Yorkers and killed more than 41,000.
The seven-day positive COVID test rate is down to 2.1% statewide and the number of COVID-positive inpatients at hospitals statewide dropped to 3,174 on Sunday. The last time either number was so low was in November.
Cuomo said continued reopening depends on continued progress.
“It is a virus, and we know how a virus spreads because we’ve lived with them all our lives,” he said. “If you take precautions within the family when somebody gets a virus, you can make sure that other people don’t get the virus.”
He said offices can go from 50% to 75% occupancy of maximum capacity, gyms and fitness centers from 33% to 50%, casinos from 25% to 50% and outdoor stadiums from 20% to 33%.
The governor spoke Monday from the State Fairgrounds near Syracuse, and said the New York State Fair will go forward this year at 50% capacity, but predicted further loosening of restrictions on the fair amid further improvement of the COVID crisis in the next four months.
“These are general operating principles, they will be revised between now and August,” he said.
One of the determining factors in emerging from the pandemic is expected to be the rate of vaccination.
The State Fairgrounds is home to a very large mass vaccination site that is, in recent days, operating at far below capacity, with thousands of appointments available but unfilled.
A reporter asked Cuomo why the state hasn’t shifted to walk-ins at the vaccination sites it runs, given that so few people are making appointments.
The governor said the state last week began to allow walk-ins by ages 61 and older because that age group remains a priority for vaccination. But he acknowledged that mass vaccination sites have seen visitation taper down and said their operating model would adjust when needed.
“There is a curve to this,” Cuomo said, explaining that up to 30% of the population is hesitant to receive the vaccine. At some point hesitancy will become a roadblock for the vaccination campaign, he added, but it’s not here yet.
When it does arrive, more walk-ins will be allowed and the state will reach out to hesitant New Yorkers, Cuomo said.
As of Monday morning, 44.3% of New Yorkers have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine and 31.4% have completed the series.
There’s not an easy generalization on vaccine refusal. Fulton and Bronx counties have nearly identical vaccination rates that are among the lowest in the state but the two are polar opposites in most other aspects.
Schenectady County and Manhattan also are very different from each other, except that they both have among the highest vaccination rates in the state.
During his briefing Monday, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy made the same point about his own county (51.9% vaccinated), which ranges from urban neighborhoods with large minority populations to almost all-white rural areas.
Slingerlands (ZIP code 12159, 89% white) is 68.6% vaccinated while West Hill Albany (ZIP code 12210, 28.3% white) is just 26.9% vaccinated and rural Coeymans Hollow (ZIP code 12046, 98.6% white) is just 19.2% vaccinated.
“We have done popup clinics and outreach but this needs to serve as a call to action for local electeds, clergy and community leaders,” McCoy said in a news release. “I’m asking them to coordinate with my office to target emails, flyers and knock on doors to connect people with information and vaccination appointments so we can improve these numbers.”