ALBANY — New York state will allow live performances to resume next month, and no longer require domestic travelers to quarantine or provide a negative COVID-19 test as long as they are fully vaccinated, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
In his first public comments in a week, Cuomo said beginning April 2, arts and entertainment venues with a capacity of less than 10,000 people can reopen at 33% capacity, with up to 100 people inside and 200 people outside. If the venues and event organizers test attendees for COVID-19, those capacity limits can tick up to 150 people inside and 500 outside, the state said. Social distancing and mask wearing will still be required.
A number of venues, including the Apollo Theater, the Park Avenue Armory, St. Ann's Warehouse, the Shed, Harlem Stage, La MaMa, and the National Black Theatre, say they will reopen next month for the first time since March 12, 2020. They will host NY PopsUp events, a series of performances aimed at ushering the return of the city's performing arts sector.
Broadway plays and musicals, however, will not be returning just yet because the limited capacity doesn't make sense from a financial perspective.
The Broadway League announced last year that Broadway would remain dark through the end of May, but it's likely productions will not return until fall.
"We are delighted that fans will once again be able to experience live performance events through PopsUp," the Broadway League said in a statement. "While Broadway productions are not able to return just yet, we're glad that arts venues, including select Broadway theatres, will be able to open their doors and give the public a taste of what we've all been missing so much through these dark months."
The move to reopen smaller entertainment venues follows Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center reopening to fans last week with 10% capacity, along with COVID-19 testing and social distancing requirements.
Dani Zoldan is ready to welcome comedians and crowds back to Stand Up NY on the Upper West Side. Zoldan, who owns the comedy club, has tried to get creative during the shutdown by hosting outdoor events and even shows on subway cars, but it hasn’t been enough.
“I mean, I’m not gonna cry in front of you, but maybe later I will when I’m in the bathroom by myself. I’m very happy,” he said during an interview with NY1.
The news comes just days after Zoldan filed a lawsuit against the Cuomo administration over the shutdown, arguing comedy clubs have been left in the dark for nearly a year due to the pandemic, while other industries have reopened. Zoldan says he’s not dropping the suit until he’s confident this latest rule change will stick.
“He might change his mind between now and April 2, just like he did with the restaurant industry,” Zoldan said.
Cuomo also announced that starting on March 22, the state will allow residential gatherings of up to 25 people outdoors, although the limit will remain 10 people indoors. Outdoor residential gatherings had previously been limited to 10 people. On the same date, social gatherings of up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors will be allowed, up from 50.
New Yorkers are still expected to abide by general COVID-19 safety procedures, such as social distancing and wearing a face coverings.
The governor also said domestic travelers won’t need to quarantine or provide a negative COVID-19 test within 90 days of being fully vaccinated. International travelers still need to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
In his coronavirus briefing, the governor also announced that the newly approved single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in the state, with New York expecting about 164,000 shots in the first batch.
With those extra doses, according to Cuomo, Yankee Stadium, the Javits Center, and the New York State Fairgrounds will add extra vaccination appointments and start operating 24/7. Scheduling for the additional Yankee Stadium appointments began Wednesday morning, the governor’s office said, and the site will operate 24/7 starting Thursday night. And New Yorkers can start applying for the extra appointments at the Javits Center and the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse starting 8 a.m. Thursday, while those sites will operate at all hours starting Friday night.
Cuomo warned, however, that these mass vaccination sites’ 24/7 status will only last for as much time as it takes the state to administer the first batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines. After that, he said, the production will lag before building back up again. The 24/7 status will also be dependent on demand for the shots at these sites.
In addition, hospitals, pharmacies, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), and health departments in New York state are getting more vaccines. The state did not specify how many more shots these spots will receive.
On the overall numbers: 4,819,412 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in New York state (3,125,025 first doses and 1,694,387 second doses).
As of Tuesday, the state’s positivity rate was 3.53%. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state now stand at 5,323, down by 46 patients from Monday. According to Cuomo's office, 1,047 patients are now in the ICU (a decrease of 29 patients), 735 of whom are intubated (down by 12 patients). Seventy-five COVID-19 deaths in New York state were recorded on Tuesday.
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