Cuomo: Most capacity restrictions to be lifted across Tri-State area on May 19

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a major reopening of New York State on May 19 in coordination with Connecticut and New Jersey.

"It's a smart reopening, it's a measured reopening, it's a phased reopening," Cuomo said during his briefing Monday. "We are at a point now when we are going to take a major step forward."

The states have agreed that starting May 19, most capacity restrictions will end across the Tri-State area, including retail stores, food services, gyms, hair salons, offices, museums, amusement and family entertainment.

"No capacity restrictions on all of those activities," Cuomo said.

Individual businesses will still be allowed to limit capacity if they wish.

"They may make their own economic decision as to when they need to reopen because they can have critical mass," Cuomo said. "Broadway for example has a schedule. They have to produce a play before they can sell the play so there's a schedule for them, but from a capacity point of view they can all reopen on May 19."

Business capacity limits will instead be replaced with space available to maintain six feet of social distancing in New York and New Jersey.

"The six-foot rule is a CDC rule and we are adhering to that six-foot rule," Cuomo said. "So it's capacity subject to your ability to maintain the six-foot rule. It is fully open subject six feet."

For restaurants that want to go within six feet or less, they can put physical barriers in place.

Cuomo said if the CDC changes its guidance, the state will follow.

For events that can require proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID tests, the six-foot limit will not apply, Cuomo said.

"If you have an operating plan for vaccinated people then you can operate at less than six-feet," Cuomo said.

The 12 a.m. curfew for outdoor dining areas will be lifted on May 17 followed by indoor dining starting May 31.

In New York beginning May 10, the outdoor social gathering limit will increase from 200 to 500 people.

Beginning May 19, the indoor social gathering limit will increase from 100 to 250 people. Also, the outdoor residential gathering limit of 25 people will be removed, reverting to the social gathering limit of 500 people with space for appropriate social distancing, and the indoor residential gathering limit will increase from 10 to 50 people.

Any event gatherings in excess of the social gathering limits may only occur if all individuals present proof of full vaccination status or recent negative COVID-19 test result.

Capacity at large outdoor stadiums goes up to 33% in New York.

Cuomo said New York is still working with New Jersey and Connecticut on a joint protocol for stadiums that would allow for a higher capacity with a testing or vaccination caveat.

Cuomo said 24/7 subway service will resume on May 17 to coordinate with the major reopening of economic and social activity.

"The tide is turning against COVID-19 in New York, and thanks to our increasing vaccination rates, as well as our successful, data-based regional approach, we're able to take more steps to reopen our economy, help businesses and workers, and keep moving towards returning to normal," Cuomo said. "Maintaining this progress is critical and in order to keep moving in a positive direction, New Yorkers must continue to take all the proper precautions. If we let up now, we could slide backwards and that is something nobody wants."

Connecticut previously announced that it would eliminate outdoor restrictions, including limits on table sizes, and the requirement that food be served with alcohol, on May 1 and end all remaining business restrictions including those on capacity limits at large event venues in the state on May 19.