Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed that New York City would fully reopen by July 1, just in time for weary city residents to have a “summer of fun.” It wasn’t his call to make, but — perhaps by design — it appears that day will come much sooner.
His longtime nemesis Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that most capacity restrictions will be lifted throughout New York state, as well as in Connecticut and New Jersey, by May 19. Most businesses — including restaurants and bars, gyms, barber shops and retailers — will be able to operate at full capacity, provided they can ensure that patrons are maintaining social distancing. The same will go for houses of worship.
Indoor and outdoor venues, meanwhile, can increase the number of people allowed in — to 30 and 33 percent capacity, respectively — assuming all patrons can provide proof of vaccination. Outdoor social gatherings will now have a maximum capacity of 500 people and indoor ones will increase to 250.
The same rules will be in effect for New Jersey. In Connecticut, capacity restrictions had already largely been lifted as of May 1, but any remaining ones will be gone by the 19th.
Last week, as Covid-19 cases declined and vaccinations increased, de Blasio said, “We are ready to bring New York City back fully on July 1, all systems go, because you’ve earned it. This is going to be the summer of New York City.”
But, as usual, the governor had more to say.
“I don’t want to wait that long,” said Cuomo, who has been eager to show he can govern while his sexual harassment and nursing home scandals play out.
Business owners have been pressuring Cuomo for months to ease capacity restrictions throughout the city, with several lawsuits filed recently in an effort to get restaurants back at full capacity. Just last week, the governor announced that restaurants would be allowed to operate at 75 percent.
Cuomo also announced today that the city’s subway system will resume 24-hour service May 17. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has not run subways 24/7 since last May, when overnight service was disrupted in order to facilitate cleaning of the system and, unofficially, to remove homeless people. Ridership has been steadily rising in the past few months after plummeting at the start of the pandemic.
“Overnight workers like waitresses, bartenders and more depend on transit to get around in the late-night hours,” Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of New York City Transit, said in a statement. “We’ve been moving them for the last year by bus and I’m thrilled that we can once again provide them with safe and efficient overnight subway service as well, as more Covid restrictions on businesses are lifted.”