New York COVID restrictions loosened for museums, zoos, movie theaters

Coronavirus

New York museums, zoos and movie theaters can welcome back more customers starting next week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday, as COVID-19 positivity rates continued to trend downward.

However, he warned, carelessness with the virus could help infection rates rise again.

For now, though, beginning April 26, museums and zoos can increase capacity to 50% and movie theaters can increase to 33%, the governor said.

Additionally, large indoor arenas can raise capacity to 25% on May 19, ahead of the NBA playoffs.

The increased capacities were the result of a decrease in infections, as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed out. 

The seven-day rolling average of daily infections for the city was 4.91 percent, de Blasio said at his daily news conference on Monday.

“Today’s report takes us below that threshold of 5 percent for the first time in a long time,” de Blasio continued, describing the rate at which the city views the situation with even greater concern, because of increased likelihood of viral spread.

“Things are really starting to change,” the mayor added.

The city’s infection rate was its lowest since before the holiday surge five months ago.

Gov. Cuomo referenced the situation in his COVID briefing, as well.

“We are now lowest since Nov. 13,” he said. 

The statewide positivity rate is now 2.85 percent. The lowering infection rate was the main reason the capacity rate was being lifted, the governor said.

However, he added, he was concerned that New Yorkers might get complacent about continuing to fight the virus.

“If we continue to vaccine, if we continue to act smart,” Cuomo said, “I think the worst is behind us, and I think we’re in a good place.  But those ‘ifs’ scare me.”

Reactions from some New Yorkers were similar to the governor’s assessment.

Betsy Feist, an Upper East Side resident, described herself as a frequent moviegoer. However, she said, with the pandemic still present, she didn’t feel comfortable sitting in a movie theater or in a restaurant, at current rates of capacity.

“I’m just not ready to rush into it,” she said, even while she checked to see if the AMC theater on Third Ave. between 86th and 87th Streets was open for business.  It is.

Shanita Lyons and Diana Quendo also live near the theater.  They said that they’re also ill at ease returning to a theater. In their case, however, they said it was not just because of COVID.

“Too much money,” Lyons said, while her friend nodded in agreement.

Instead, they said, they’ll continue a film-watching routine they’ve cultivated during the pandemic.

“Netflix and chill,” said Lyons.

Also, bar and restaurant owners were seeing some relief on Monday, as well, as the state’s 11 p.m. curfew was pushed back to midnight.

Owners had pleaded for the curfew to be lifted, saying that pandemic restrictions were hurting business. Steve Olsen, the owner of the West Bank Café, told PIX11 News on Sunday moving the curfew back an hour was still a “step in the right direction.” 

“We have partitions, filters, masks. Most of our customers are vaccinated. We’re excited about the city opening,” he said.  

Meanwhile, the state continued to ramp up its vaccination efforts. More than 5.6 million New Yorkers were fully vaccinated, as of Monday morning.

New York residents 16 and older are eligible to get the COVID vaccine. 

For more information on where you can schedule an appointment, visit the state’s website or New York City’s vaccine finder.

PIX11’s Magee Hickey contributed to this report.

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