New York COVID-19 Response/Reopening

On Wednesday, June 2nd, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the 7-day average is 0.64%, the lowest in the nation. There are 1,007 COVID hospitalizations and 11 New Yorkers died from the virus on June 1st.

Due to the COVID numbers dropping significantly, the state began its major reopening on May 19th. Although the reopening capacity restrictions for most businesses have been lifted, businesses are now limited by a new distance-based maximum capacity, which means that capacity is limited to whatever ensures individuals can still maintain the required six-foot social distancing guidance. Other industry-specific guidance will remain in effect for the time being and the state will continue to update guidance or provide additional guidance as they apply to each industry.

For event venues, capacity for congregate commercial and social events, such as sports competitions, performing arts and live entertainment, and catered receptions, is allowed to exceed 500 individuals indoors or 250 individuals outdoors, so long as all attendees over the age of four present proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or proof of full vaccination. Six-foot social distancing is also required at such events. For large-scale indoor events, capacity has increased to 30%, and capacity for large-scale outdoor events is only limited by the new-distanced based capacity. At large-scale outdoor event venues, there can be sections specifically for individuals who have been vaccinated, where the six-foot distancing rule does not apply, meaning individuals are allowed to sit next to one another. Individuals in these sections need to provide proof of vaccination, which can be provided through a paper form, digital application, or New York’s Excelsior Pass. There are also sections for unvaccinated individuals, which are required to adhere to capacity limits and social distancing. On June 19th, the state will begin to pilot this same process for large-scale indoor event venues.

Also, under the major reopening transition, the capacity limit for outdoor social gatherings has increased from 200 to 500 individuals, and the capacity limit for indoor social gatherings has increased from 100 to 250 individuals. The gathering limit of 25 individuals for outdoor residential gatherings has been removed and has reverted to the outdoor social gathering limit of 500 people, provided that proper social distancing can be maintained. For indoor residential gatherings, the gathering limit has increased from 10 to 50 individuals, again, provided that there is appropriate space for social distancing.

Also on May 19th, the State adopted the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance that vaccinated people no longer need to wear mask or face coverings in most circumstances. Although the mask mandate has been lifted, individual businesses are free to set their own rules regarding masks, which customers would need to abide by.

In terms of the state’s vaccination progress, the Governor has noted multiple times in recent weeks that the vaccination rate has slowed significantly. Because of this, the Governor has announced several incentives to hopefully persuade individuals, specifically young people and individuals the Governor calls “the doubtful,” to get a COVID vaccine. The various incentives the State has announced include:

  • Vax & Scratch Program: Under this program, anyone 18-years old or older that gets vaccinated at one of the state’s 10 mass vaccination sites will receive a free $20 NYS Lottery scratch-off ticket, where they could potentially win a grand prize of $5 million.
  • New York State Park Program: On May 24th, the Governor announced that anyone who received a vaccine between May 24th and May 31st is eligible to receive a free two-day pass to any New York State Park. The passes can be picked up at any state park and are valid through September 30, 2021.
  • Saratoga Race Track Program: On May 27th, the Governor announced that anyone who is fully vaccinated, and can show proof through the State’s Excelsior Pass app, will receive free grandstand general admission to Opening Day of the Saratoga Race Course. Opening Day is Thursday, July 15th, and to receive this incentive, individuals must show proof of full vaccination on Open Day – it does not apply when purchasing tickets ahead of time, which go on sale June 9th.
  • Get a Shot to Make Your Future Program: Under this program, which is the state’s biggest incentive program, any 12- to 17-year-olds that receive a vaccine between May 26th and July 7th, will be entered into a raffle where the state will award 50 full tuition, room, and board scholarships to any SUNY or CUNY school. Ten winners will be announced weekly for five weeks. Costs of this program will be covered by federal COVID-19 relief and outreach funds.