ALBANY — New York will drop most COVID occupancy restrictions May 19.
Most public gathering places — gyms, theaters, retail stores, restaurants, museums, etc. — will be able to admit as many people as they could legally allow before the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, as a practical matter, some won’t be able to, because the six-foot distancing rule remains in effect. So a restaurant that squeezed tables together in 2019 and had to distance them in 2020 won’t be able to squeeze them together again just yet in 2021.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York is following federal guidelines on the six-foot rule.
When the federal guidelines change, New York will change, he said.
“This is a major reopening of economic and social activity,” Cuomo said Monday morning as he announced the changes.
These changes were coordinated with New Jersey and Connecticut, as the three states experience significant daily traffic across their borders, particularly with commuters in the New York City area.
Some capacity restrictions remain in place, such as for stadiums, but the three states are working on a protocol to end those restrictions, Cuomo said.
Also, New York restaurant and bar curfews remain in effect for outdoor dining and drinking until May 17 and indoor until May 31.
Cuomo said the changes are justified by the continued progress New York is making against the virus:
- The statewide seven-day positive COVID test average stood at 1.8% Monday, the lowest in six months.
- Statewide, 2,539 people were hospitalized with COVID, the fewest in more than five months.
- And 35.2% of New Yorkers — 7.02 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID. The federal Centers for Disease control ranks New York 12th among the states on this metric and first among the largest states; nationally, 31.8% of Americans are fully vaccinated.
- Locally, at 1.4%, the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley are tied for second-lowest positive COVID test rate among the state’s 10 regions; within the two regions, individual counties’ seven-day positive rates range from 0.9% (Rensselaer County) to 2.9% (Montgomery County).